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April 4 Story Challenge in 99-words

Somewhere beneath five feet of snow, my crocus is stirring. Poor rock gravel spans the exposed pavement of Roberts Street and my car skids worse than when it was grit on packed ice. As impatient as I feel for the mounds of grit and snow to go away, a slow thaw allows the shallow soil of the Keweenaw to absorb water better.

It’s duck season and mallards have arrived at Keweenaw Bay, along with Canada geese and massive white swans. Yet, Anishinaabe continue to ice fish, avoiding the exposed water at the southern, more shallow tip of the bay. I’ve watched them as I travel around the curve of Lake Superior to and from VA appointments. Perhaps my last season for such trips.

At Ghost House Farm further up the ridge of the Keweenaw Peninsula, it’s fuzzy chick season. The newest generation of egg-layers has arrived. I have fuzzy ducks on my mind, though, thinking of the next round of revisions I have to complete on my manuscript. There’s a feeling of fresh starts and renewed life in the air despite the stubborn snow and heavy circumstances around the globe.

My students have three weeks to complete their research paper revisions, and every day is a countdown to finals week. As a prof, the workload is easing. I’m switching gears from teaching to guiding to editing. I plan to end with reflection and I hope — in the not-so-distant future — to be known for giving final exams worth appreciating. I’m refining what I started last semester to coax my students to discover the role of process in writing and the discovery in research.

On Saturday, I drove to Marquette with one of the Assistant Professors and a vanload of our English students. What I love about driving any great distance with people who read are the conversations about books, writing, and life. In Marquette, we found more books that opened up further conversations for the drive home.

The purpose of our trip was an exhibit displayed at Northern Michigan University called Seventh Fire. It explores decolonization, and the self-determination of the Anishinaabe to heal and reclaim sovereignty, giving voice to the land and water and all the nations of beings. As a People of the Heart Water Walker, I’m familiar with the Seventh Fire, but I didn’t fully appreciate how the Anishinaabe were the people who chose to go west to where the wild rice grows near the Great Lakes to protect the fire.

I’ve mentioned Fire Keeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley before as it is an Indigenous YA novel I teach in my English I classes. And yes, it is that same fire that protects ceremony, community, and relations. If you read the novel you learn the mythology of who the Fire Keeper’s Daughter is, but you also see how it relates to the contemporary struggle mentioned in the prophecies through the eyes of a mixed-race teenage girl.

I’ll let another favorite Indigenous author, Robin Wall Kimmerer, explain the Seventh Fire:

We as writers and poets and story carriers are the ones to process the past and the future, the paradigm shifts, the alternative viewpoints. We are the ones to imagine what it was like and what it will be like. We help others to see, framing ideas and ideals. We carry the stories of humanity like an unbroken chain from the first storytellers.

Today, I listened to three storytellers, one from York in the UK, another from upstate New York, and another from Northern Wisconsin tell the story of the Handless Maiden as a group. It begins simply with one line, “The mill was broken.” It’s from a tale collected by the Grimm Brothers and yet it remains relevant today, instructing us to seek healing when the world we know breaks down.

As I finish teaching this month and switch gears into my own storytelling, I accept the task of story carrier — one who shares the stories of others. Never doubt that you are part of an important lineage of those who tell stories. History is written with bias. But fiction seeks the truth of what it is to be human.

In the meantime, join me in the wait for the to crocus rise. Let’s find something lighthearted to capture in 99 words. We can all use a good dose of hope.

April 4, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story to explain “baby ducks ate my lunch.” How did that happen? Who is the protagonist? Where did the baby ducks come from? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by April 9, 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.


  1. “Where ya been Pal?”
    “Ridin the Ranch, checkin on things. There’s a bunch a ducks on the creek below Ernie’s jist now.”
    “Yep, they layover there, headed back north.”
    “Well, ya best git ready, Kid, there’s gonna be a whole lotta ducks all over the ranch. A fowl prompt, gonna be worse then thet cat prompt, member thet one? Was a tough roundup, it was like herdin… cats! An now ducklins.”
    “Baby ducks, Pal. Cute! But yer gonna lose yer lunch.”
    “My lunch?”
    “Yep, that’s what the prompt says. But I’ll share mine with ya.”
    “Thet’s jist ducky, Kid.”

    • Charli Mills says:

      Oh, no! I hadn’t considered the meaning of “loose yer lunch…” lol! Leave it to Kid and Pal. Alrighty then. Bring on the baby ducks!

  2. Norah says:

    Hi Charli,
    I wish you success with your baby ducks, and your family with their baby chicks. So much growth to look forward to.
    I enjoyed listening to Robin Wall Kimmerer explain the Seventh Fire. There is so much wisdom in there. We have so many pieces to pick up. She has a beautiful and compelling voice.
    I await the blooming of your crocuses and don’t mind so much if the ducklings eat your lunch, as long as they don’t destroy your manuscript.
    Have a wonderful April.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Norah, it certainly gives us all pause to consider the things humanity lost along the trail of our journey, and what wisdom we can go back and find as we all face this climate challenge and pandemic together. Robin has a wonderful voice! She reads her book, Braiding Sweetgrass on Audible. I know you like listening to books. And nope, I won’t let baby ducks eat my manuscript! You have a wonderful April, too!

      • Norah says:

        There’s a lot of wisdom we need to find again – like lost treasure.
        Perhaps I’ll look for Braiding Sweetgrass. Sounds interesting.
        Here’s to baby ducks learning to fly!

  3. denmaniacs4 says:

    You almost lost me at “beneath five feet of snow” Charli, but I recovered and went seriously ‘end of the world as we know it.’ It was quite invigorating in an apocalyptic sort of way.

  4. Thanks to you, Charli, I had the pleasure of reading “Firekeeper’s Daughter” by Angeline Boulley. I loved it and learned so much indigenous language. Wrote a review on my review site, too. ~nan

    • Suffice it to say, I highly recommend the novel.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Excellent, Nan! I’m so pleased you read the book. Angeline Boulley serves as a great example of how we can share and learn culture from a compelling tale without any disruption of flow. This is one of my absolute favorite novels to teach as it is so rich for discussion. Thanks for sharing your review!

  5. Jennie says:

    Your stories make my day!

  6. Jules says:


    No baby ducks here yet. So I did a fiction verse for you. Enjoy.
    And thanks for sharing your video and information. ~Jules

    • Charli Mills says:

      Jules, when do you start noticing baby ducks on your river? I’m looking forward to green grass and yellow fuzzballs following parents!

      • Jules says:

        Oddly enough not yet… just maybe later this month or in May. I think you folks get strawberries after we do. It’s all location, location, location and weather 😉

        I did just read though that if the first clutch doesn’t make it a second can arrive as late as July. So far the creek has only shown me pairs of geese and ducks. I did see a heron fly by and the other day a young Cooper’s hawk was eating worms out of a puddle in my yard like a kid slupping up spaghetti!

      • Charli Mills says:

        What a great sight to witness, Jules — a young Cooper’s Hawk slurping worms from puddles. You describe it so well. We get our strawberries mid-July. Today, more snow. Say “hi” to Blue Heron for me!

  7. What a powerful video. I need to purchase this book, Charli. I was deeply moved. Two more weeks and you’re almost done. WOO HOO! How exciting. <3

    • Charli Mills says:

      Colleen, Robin Wall Kimmerer is so eloquent in how she blends Indigenous and modern science. You will love reading “Braiding Sweetgrass”! I plan to teach it next Spring semester so I have all her versions — audio, Kindle and hardcopy, lol. Oh, my goodness, so many things coming to an end over the next two months, giving way to growth that’s been itching to sprout.

      I use this quote in my Finlandia email signature:

      “We may not have wings or leaves, but we humans do have words. Language is our gift and our responsibility.” ~ Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass

      It sums up everything for me. Why we write collaboratively at Carrot Ranch, why I write lost stories, why I coach and teach and…well, we will mention that soon. 😉

  8. Hi Charli, you are an exceptional professor and your students are lucky to have you.

  9. This was cute, and thanks for the book recommendation! My story is inspired by the ducklings we had at uni 🙂

    • Charli Mills says:

      I’m a bit wary of cute and fuzzy prompts, though, Eleanor! When we first got started writing 99-word stories, the darkest collection we ever wrote was prompted by unicorns. I look forward to your uni story!

  10. Liz H says:

    My Ducks? Not especially cute, but the serial continues with this week’s microflash99.
    Hang in there…the end’s a-comin’ and it’s gonna be good!

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