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July 18: Story Challenge in 99-words

Thunderheads punch white pillars into blue sky. The towering clouds float at a distance in suspended animation, slowly morphing from rock features to dragons. It’s not a warm summer on the Keweenaw but no one is complaining and it’s a bumper crop of sweet cherries and field-grown strawberries. Nights are pleasantly cool.

Nokomis Gichigami, Grandmother Big Sea, is frigid.

Yesterday, Lake Superior recorded 42 degrees Fahrenheit. Yesterday, I swam with Mause.

Let me back up to explain “swimming.” I’m fine paddling about in a kayak or in water with my head scoping the path forward. At one time in my life — age 13 — I sufficiently overcame my terror of getting my head submerged to have joined the county swim team. My coach told me to wear nose plugs. Since then, I’ve regressed and won’t submerge my head.

But a friend of mine floats and I want to float, too. Last year, I decided to try the water on one of our boat rides (her partner has a beautiful pontoon boat for cruising our vast Portage Canal and edges of Lake Superior). I climbed down the back ladder and clung to the boat, hyperventilating. I’m a pro at meditation, though and I began to calm and deepen my breath.

Then my leg cramped and I got scared and thought maybe floating wasn’t for me. Yet.

This summer, I’ve returned to yoga and I’m working on those hamstrings (the ones that cramp). I also bought an apparatus that I remember using to learn different strokes when swimming — a kickboard. Mine is purple with the tiniest smattering of turquoise glitter. A vast improvement over the plain white boards of the ’70s.

That’s how I came to be in the water, watching thunderheads expand vertically. My friend’s boat is the happy place for many of us. He generously takes guests on weekend cruises, and I’m fortunate to be a frequent-boater-future-floater. This time, he invited a local massage therapist who lives off-grid with her husband. They’re both in their seventies, near eighties. She loves to float but shares my fear. She wears a life vest.

This time, I felt confident going into the water. Panic hit but I was ready for it and countered my breaths until I felt calm. Then I dared to push away from the boat and my kickboard glided. We had stopped in a cove not far from White City, the beach that once entertained miners’ families with amusements and picnics. Only the Portage lighthouses and breakwall remains.

At some point, I relaxed enough to rest my chin on the board, my arms forward like in child-pose, and suddenly, I felt it. Buoyancy. I breathed into the feeling and let my body float. Glorious water held me. I floated into a warm spot and among my friends, one on her back, the other floating like a bobber in her vest. We spoke to each other as we floated. Sometimes we fell silent.

In one of those silent moments, another boat coasted into the cove and met up with our captain. We heard a new voice remark, “Are those corpses?” followed by laughter from the other boats that had also pulled in without our notice. I suppose we made an odd sight. But none of us cared and we floated until called back to the boat.

That’s how I arrived at the moment of swimming with Mause yesterday. Mause’s swim history is much shorter and begins yesterday.

It’s hit or miss with a German Shorthaired Pointers. Either they love water or they loathe it. Last summer, Mause was a young puppy (now she’s an elder puppy). We introduced her to water, but she never swam. She chased waves and rocks. It’s been too cold to swim this year, as noted by the Lake’s chilly temperature. Still, the sun heats surface water and it’s warmer where the waves blow to shore.

The day was hot and we decided to cool off at McLeans. I poked around among the rock bars, getting my ankles adjusted to the cold. Mause chased rocks, and I waded deeper. Having plunged my arm deep to retrieve an interesting rock or two, I felt ready to repeat my floating experience. I grabbed my kickboard from the shore and glided across the waves.

It’s more difficult to float with rock shoes weighing down my feet and waves battering my board. I thrust across the waves testing my memory of swim kicks when I heard a rhythmic plunging approach. Mause had swam out to me on her own! Her expression of surprise in her eyes and ears changed to joy and I knew we had a swimmer GSP. I crooned and encouraged her. She swam circles around me. It was as good as floating!

What floats your boat? Or your dandelion fluff, or ever-changing cloud cover?

July 18, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about floating. Who is floating, where, and in what? Is the floating real or felt internally? Whatever floats your boat, go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by July 23, 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. restlessjo says:

    I can totally relate to this, Charli. Relaxing in water is something I can’t do, unless I’m in a bath with my bum on the bottom (with a book and a glass of wine, but that’s a different story!) And yet, I have done it once, many years ago, so I know it can be done. Confidence is a wonderful thing, isn’t it? I fight the water every step of the way.

  2. Norah says:

    I grew up at the beach and spent endless hours on the sand, in the water, and climbing the huge cotton trees and red cliffs that lined the shore. I’m paying for it all now with regular trips to the dermatologist to treat sun damage. I was never much of a swimmer and now, like you, don’t like to put my head in the water. I don’t like water in my eyes and I don’t like getting my hair wet. In recent years I’ve been fortunate to have a pool at home and used to swim most mornings in summer. The family would love me to get in when they are swimming, but I know that’s only because they’d love to torment me by splashing. I’m mean. I don’t give them the pleasure. Instead, I cut fruit for them to eat when they get out. I think that’s fair. 😊 Like Mause, all their doggies love the water. In fact the 3-legged rescue dog has hydrotherapy once a week to help strengthen his legs after many surgeries. What a spoilt (much loved) pet.

    • Charli Mills says:

      What glorious interaction you had with the beach, Norah! It sounds like a stunning setting with red cliffs. I’m surprised! I know you have a pool and I thought of you as swimming, head, hair and all. maybe it’s a Gemini thing! Good strategy, though, volunteering to cut fruit to avoid the playful tormentors. Much loved swimming pooches. I love that hydrotherapy helps the rescue grand-dog.

      • Norah says:

        It was a great place to grow up, Charli. If I wasn’t on my bed reading (which really was most of the time), I was at the beach.
        Maybe we are Gemini twins. 🙂
        And yes, the hydrotherapy does my oldest (longest) grandpooch a lot of good. 🙂

      • Charli Mills says:

        We must be Gemini Twins, Norah! If I wasn’t exploring my surroundings, I was on a rock reading. You are the bed twin and I’m the rock one!

  3. LaShelle says:

    I LOVE this post and this story. The picture drew me in but the story had me feeling breathless. Beautifully done

  4. Liz H says:

    I remember those kickboards! White, squeaky styrofoam and if you pushed them low into the water, then let go, they’d fly with a pterodactyl shriek! The most fun part of swimming lessons at the local pool!
    But..whatever floats your boat. 🐵

  5. denmaniacs4 says:

    Kudos to Mause…and to you, Charli…I grew up literally on the water and swam much of my life. Not so much these days but I may just take it up again…

    • Charli Mills says:

      Bill, are there places to swim on your island, like coves or beaches? I love water, as long as I get top placement. I think swimming pairs great with pickleball. And hey — they just finished converting the tennis court down Roberts Street into four pickleball courts! I may pick that up, too!

      • denmaniacs4 says:

        There are lots of places here…and growing up, just south of here, A great decommissioned Dam, a swamp on the way to becoming a lake, a sweet flowing stream very close to my house, and swimming lessons in the ocean conducted/sponsored by a big BC newspaper….and many more places…water galore…

      • Charli Mills says:

        So much memory in all that water. No wonder you write with such a rich flow.

  6. Amidst all the renovation chaos, I’ve managed to write a 99 word story. I can hardly believe it. This was the perfect theme, Charli. 🕊

  7. Congrats on becoming a floatee. 🙂

  8. Miss Judy says:

    Your story reminded me so much of my young years. Thanks for the memories. I penned two stories on those memories.

  9. Anne Goodwin says:

    I don’t mind putting my head in the water but stopped swimming some time ago when breast stroke aggravated my dodgy knees and (despite lessons from a patient friend) I never mastered front crawl.

  10. Wow I really loved this story. Thank you for sharing. I’d forgotten about kickboards flying upwards. Thank you for sharing how yoga is part of your life and breath. It’s a good reminder and example.

  11. SueSpitulnik says:

    I grew up going to a summer cottage on a nearby lake, making my young friends think we were “rich.”. Haha, it had no running water and no indoor plumbing. I could probably doggie paddle safely before I could walk and swimming is still my preferred exercise; but not in 45-degree water.
    Good for Mause that she figured out swimming on here own. What a fun time when the dog likes the water.

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