Into Light

The townsfolk knew she lived there; maybe. Sometimes Mrs. Beardy, nine miles North, said she’d seen someone hanging wash. Old Frank, the property South, couldn’t say the same -he didn’t pass Monty McCrae’s place for no reason, he’d said.

Or would’ve said. Maybe.

Old Frank wasn’t into talking, especially about others’ business. Everyone felt that way: leave someone alone if he wanted.

That’s why no one, not even Angelique (formerly Mrs. Monty) McCrae, recognized the lady in red who finally left a life of shadows, walked down the dirt path to a hired car, and rode away to freedom.

©2023 Chel Owens

Photo by Ekaterina Astakhova on Pexels.com

Written in response to Carrot Ranch‘s prompt:

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

Hullo, Rabbit!

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

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

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

©2023 Chel Owens

Photo by lil artsy on Pexels.com

Written in response to Carrot Ranch‘s prompt:

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

Speak to Me Only With Thine Dementia

“Oh. My.” She said it every morning. You would think he’d be accustomed to it, even tired of it.

But she had a way of infusing each word with childlike awe.

That was why he loved it; why her daily exclamation touched him every time. By now, he lived for this. He couldn’t imagine his day starting otherwise.

His wife turned, all smiles, and said the phrase she always followed with: “I think I’ve awakened in paradise.”

He rose and put his arm around her. Staring out their bay windows at the private ocean bay; he, as always, agreed.

©2022 Chel Owens

Photo by Thomas on Pexels.com

Written in response to Carrot Ranch‘s prompt:

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

Geneva Steele

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

But Geneva couldn’t answer with any of that.

“I’m Swiss,” she said.

Or, “I’m from New York.”

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

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

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

The Daily Universe, Brigham Young University, from L. Tom Perry Special Collections.

©2022 Chel Owens

Written in response to Carrot Ranch‘s prompt:

November 14, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes a lie. What is the lie? It can be subtle or blatant. Who tells the lie and why? Is it an unreliable narrator? Go where the prompt leads!

Secret Codes by Secret Means

*BEEP* *BOO* *BEEP* *BEEE*

Bridger Serialkillerton (II) hears the annoyance; notes it. His mind refuses to ignore it. Noise without end meant communication of some kind. Morse code? Tap? Now that he’s decided to give the sound his attention, he feels his mind go to work on deciphering. His body tenses for pauses and assigns them a space-between. The duration and intensity of each annoying tone is given emphasis and potential.

*BEEEEE* *BEE-BOO* *BEEP*

It toys at his experience and verges on the edge of revelation. A call for distress? He’s heard this before, hasn’t he?

*BOOP* *BEEP* *BEEP* *BEEE*

It’s a device; yes! His scattered mental search brings this solution. This is no fellow-agent in need. This is a computerized output, set to alert users to the impending completion of its program. At least, he feels it normally operates as such. Whyever it is outputting so erratically sets his mind-gears in motion once again.

*BEEP* *BOO* *BEEP* *BEEE*

The original pattern presents itself again.

*BEEEE* *BEE-BOOP*

He’s heard that sequence as well.

*BEEP* *BEEP* *BEEP* *BOOO-*

He feels at the tip of resolution …when Bridger Serialkillerton’s forgotten associate shouts at full volume:

“BRIDGER SERIALKILLERTON THE THIRD! GET YOUR SHOES ON AND STOP PLAYING WITH THAT MICROWAVE THIS INSTANT!”

Photo by Jep Gambardella on Pexels.com

©2022 Chel Owens

Altitude Anonymous

-“Hello, and welcome -yet again- to our meeting of Altitude Anonymous. I am your group leader for this quarter, Slim J.”

“Hi, Slim J.”

-“Thank you. Let’s open this meeting with our Share Session. Who’d like to start?”

…..

-“Anyone?” “Ah. Yes, of course; Bean P.”

“Alrighty. So, as you know, I’m the team lead in a high profile sales environment over at-“

-“No names, Bean.”

“Yes; of course. Silly rule but -as team lead, I oversee operations on both the East and West Coasts as well as inspiring the logistics and marketing departments in global aspir-“

-“Shares are two minutes, Bean.”

“Two minutes. Right. Well; okay then. -Team lead is, as you know, vital to any organization. Without my input and direction, no one would know which end went where -ya know what I mean?”

-“Beeean.”

“Right.” *Ahem.* “Step Three’s humility and I met my goals and did very well. As always.”

=”Oookay, then. Er… good work, Bean.”

“You’re welcome!”

-“Who else wants to share? …Gian T? Yeah; go ahead.”

“Hi. I’m Gian T.”

“Hi, Gian T.

“My weekly goal was walking in a small person’s shoes, so I took mah girl’s heels and hit the clubs -but that bi-“

-“Giaaan”

“Er; that beautiful woman’s got tiny ass feet so I broke ’em right away and was barefoot all night.”

-“Thank you, Gian. Anyone else?”

“I have one.”

-“Okay.”

“Hello; I’m Lank E.”

Hi, Lank E.”

“Hi. Hi, guys. I’ve really been trying to not not see -you know- little people. It’s so hard! They’re like kids: popping up behind your cart or standing in an aisle with the peaches right behind you-“

-“Um, Lank-“

“An’ then there’s that time I got in my truck ’cause, you know, my truck -and I drove over a little person’s car but luckily they weren’t in it when I back up they just hadn’t parked it in a very obvious spot. But, that’s what I’m saying: that the little ones are so darned hard to see-“

-“Ms. Lank?”

“Just Lank, thanks. Yeah, so, I didn’t do so great at seeing littles. Better luck next week, I guess.”

-“Well! It’s getting late so let’s wrap up with The Altitude Anonymous Pledge.”

I, LaSliGiaPecTalBig, am tall, but I can think small. No matter where I go, I can move slow. When others are in the way, I can politely say, “I respect your space, ‘though I can’t see your face.”

-“Thanks, guys -and gals. Pecos has the treat next time. See you then.”

©2022 Chel Owens

Swipe Right

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.

©2022 Chel Owens

Photo by Jep Gambardella on Pexels.com

Written in response to Carrot Ranch‘s prompt: swimmingly

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!

That Ole Road of Life, Maybe

One day I walked a piece down the road; it warn’t no road of any consequence, see -just an ordinary one with rocks and dirt.

Photo by Onanini on Pexels.com

But mostly dirt.

It were the people I come across what were special. The people are always what makes a road interstin’ (I say) and the people in this case were nothin’ short of that.

First, a-course, was an old woman all full of tales an woes an mind-yer-manners. I brushed her off, also a-course, cause I know more an’ my elders -but the one thing about her I recall was her eyes. She grabbed at my face, see, with her hands; and she stared right into my eyes with hers. I telled right off she was dumb-blind. -On account of her milky gaze hoverin’ somwehere round my shoulder.-

“You take note” she said; or maybe it was, “Watch the road;” or maybe somethin’ ’bout cookies -I confess my stomach felt a mite empty- Leastaways, I’ll always remember those milky eyes: so deep with ‘perience, starin’ off to forever.

Next, I ‘member an old dog. He looked like Coon, my favorite when I was five. (Coon got done run down by a truck when I was eight; dumb dog.) But I loved that flea bag of fur. And he loved me. An’ this dog on the dirt track lifted his head all sad an’ he howled.

-And I remembered that Coon would howl like that when the ambulance ran by, like he knew what was what and was practicin’ for the funeral song that was shore to come.

I patted the dog like I had for Coon (“It’s all right, Boy”) and kept on keptin’ on.

Right past him was a preacher like you only see in stories these days. He waved his arms and spoke of heaven and hell, and did I know where I was going?

“Well, yessir I’m goin on down this road,” I tells him.

An’ he said did I know if I was saved? and I said I didn’ even know what needed savin,’ and afore I turned the bend and left him behind he’d slapped that Bible in his hand and waved a warnin’ finger but I still don’ know what needs savin’: him or me or Bibles.

I passed more people; a cat; another dog. Why they was all stuck where they were, like signposts on the road of life, was beyond me. Why couldn’t they move? Why was they all out there just waitin’ on me? I ain’t no one special, no more’n the next fellow. I ain’t keen. I ain’t got talent. I barely has the brains to carry on conversation -least that’s what my Pa would say.

Down that track I trudged, kickin’ up dirt and rocks. I can’t rightly say how far. I can’t even say how many souls I weaved round or talked to or was talked to. Seemed like forever.

And then, that’s when I realized it was. Forever, I mean. See, I’m walkin’ that road still today -whatever ‘today’ might be. I’s still talkin’ to th’ dogs an’ the granmas an’ the preachers.

Mostly, I aim to be a signpost one day. Maybe it’ll be when I finally listen.

The Measure of a Man’s Best Friend

The Greyhound halted. This was where $200 took James. He disembarked, shouldered his prison-issued backpack, and read the station’s name: Kum & Go.

“Here to rob it?”

James swung to see a man by a pickup; opened his mouth, then shut it. The man had no legs. The truck had a dog.

-But not just any dog. “Buttercup!”

The yellow lab hurtled out and licked him, desisting at her master’s call. James had trained her in prison, as a service animal for a wounded soldier.

James looked up, and both men saw each other -clearly- for the first time.

©2022 Chel Owens

Oh my goodness, Charli! Don’t ever make me do that, again! -I mean, This was written in response to Charli’s prompt at Carrot Ranch:

May 16, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about when a newly released prisoner meets the disabled veteran who adopted the puppy the prisoner trained behind bars. The prompt is based on the short story I wrote for Marsha Ingrao’s Story Chat. Yes, rewrite my story in your words, 99, no more, no less. Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by May 21, 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 [on the site]. 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.

Crimson’s Creative Challenge #177: Aztec Cookie

Explorer’s Log, Quintilis 1502

Some days we find nothing -nothing to warrant the persistent sun, the steaming jungle, nor the rude accommodations. Each day drags longer as it pulls us further from a return home. The beating hours are enough to drive a man mad.

There’s a capuchin examining me. He knows what I think.

The men bear these stresses better than I, used to hard labour as they are. They say to have hope. Or, they may have said there was no hope; my grasp of the local dialect is still tenuous.

Aha! Dhorman comes as I write, bearing that broad, white grin of his. He holds something as he comes, shouting. What is he shouting?

“Cookie?”

©2022 Chel Owens

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Written in response to Crispina Kemp’s Crimson Creative Challenge.