Balloons on a Bumper Collection

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

September 21, 2022

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.


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.


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.


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’.


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.”


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…


A Bumper Crop by Bill Engleson

Never thought they’d do it.
I was twenty-one.
Sucked the heart out of me.
Our own communal construct.
It was the swinging sixties.
Marriage was so bourgeois.
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.


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.


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.


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.”


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.


“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!

You May Also Like…

To Leave a Leak Collection

To Leave a Leak Collection

Welcome to Carrot Ranch Literary Community where creative writers from around the world and across genres gather to...

This Is Awkward Collection

This Is Awkward Collection

Welcome to Carrot Ranch Literary Community where creative writers from around the world and across genres gather to...


  1. Scott Bailey

    This is as good a time as any to try something a little different; I’ll explain my own story.
    Normally, I create a character or two and let them drive the story, but this time I decided to leave the characters out and let the seven sentences, in list form, do the job, even the narrator is anonymous. I thought it turned out ok. What could I have done better, given the same format? Don’t hold back, I can take it!

    • pedometergeek

      I really liked your piece. I felt it was really innovative, moving the narrative along with all the “mistakes.” I always enjoy reading yours, but because there is no link, it isn’t easy to make comments about them. I say well done on this one. ~Nan

      • Scott Bailey

        Thanks, Nan. As far as a link goes, I don’t have one but I think it’s allowed for you make any comment right here. At least I think that’s ok.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      I love that you are inviting comments to your piece right here. I wish there was more conversation and discussion right here. Of course it has taken me these few days to get back here…
      I noticed when I first read through the collection your format, and it works well. It’s fun and different, he repetition and then the switch up with the last line makes it more effective. I read this after submitting the Ranch Yarn for next time where Pal lists, but no where near as well as you did here. Anyway, the prompts lead us all into different stories and it is always fun to experiment with different ways of telling those stories. Bravo.

      • Scott Bailey

        D., I agree completely that the prompts take us all in wildly different directions and let us touch on many different feelings, that is evident each week and this weeks is no different. Wow, I used the word ‘different’ three times in the same sentence! Normally I would go back and clean that up but for now let’s just let that ride.
        As far as offering up my own story for critique, I think taking the advice of some of the really good writers here can only help me improve.

    • Charli Mills

      Scott, I think this is a great place to give a backstory or talk about the writing process. Funnily enough, I did this exercise today with my English I Comp class. Instead of creating a character, I had them write a 99-word story, using anonymous POVs. I wanted them to experience how we learn to follow our writing instincts. When the characters are stripped down to anonymous POVs, the story emerges. Change POV and a different story appears. The shift is our instincts. Of course, we follow the same instinctual shifts when we let our characters guide us, but we attribute it to something outside of us when really it is within.

      Here’s what you did well — you came up with an original framework of a story in a list that produces medius res. As a reader, I enjoy the thrill of being plopped into the middle of an unfolding story. The list format works well in 99-words. If you made this a longer short story, you could create sections out of each listed point, expanding what happens in greater detail (what I love about 99-words is that it’s the art of omission as much as it is storytelling). Then, you consistently (and I emphasize CONSISTENTLY) introduce the action of each mistake as present participles. Again, it adds to the immediacy of bringing the reader into the story. You conclude with a punchline that feels complete.

      Improvements. Play with word choice to sharpen the image. Be more specific than “that” hot air balloon. It will cost you an added word or two, but give us a sensory detail. You can be more specific than “open fields,” such as “wheat stubble,” “freshly plowed,” or “llama pasture.” Replace “tie off” with a singular strong verb like “anchor.” Tighten “to the back bumper of my pick up.” Can you better clarify this action: “helping him untie all the ballast sand bags”? Can you slip the why of it into the story? How can you tighten the final action? Sentence variation is great in most stories, but I feel like the pacing moves better in this particular one when the action comes in shorter sentences. Then, that allows you to buy more words to elongate the view at the end. Tell us what he sees that expands our knowledge of him, Phineas, or the place.

      Another fun practice is to rewrite this story with different characters, POVs, settings, themes, genres, and tones. It’s not that one will be better than the other but you start to feel comfortable changing (revising) your work and finding new ideas.

      • Scott Bailey

        Great advice, Charli! That’s the kind of feedback I was looking for. I see how the story, while actually following a story line still felt devoid of any feeling or guts or anything to fill it out. I rewrote it with a bit more attention to personality and color and I think it works much better now. Thank you so much.

        Ballons V2
        Scott Bailey

        Mistake number one: chasing a sinking hot air balloon.
        Mistake number two: smashing my truck through the emu pasture gate.
        Mistake number three: helping stranded Balloonist Phynias T. Schmebbs tie the balloon to my bumper.
        Mistake number four: watching excited emus gather, pecking and tearing open the ballast bags.
        Mistake number five: watching the rear of my truck rise up.
        Mistake number six: believing Phynias when he said if I got in and drove away the balloon would settle down.
        Now, from way up here I can still see the emus pecking the living shit out of Mr. Schmebbs.

      • Scott Bailey

        Charli, by following your advice, the rewritten story has much more detail, like when you said to try wheat field or llama pasture in the beginning. As soon as I saw “llama”, I knew what you meant. From then on, the story took a different route right up to the end where, like you said, I had more room for added detail. I think the story was just an empty vessel before but now has some meat on the bones. You were 100 percent right in pointing out all the opportunities I missed to make it better. Thanks, again.

      • Charli Mills

        Excellent revision, Scott! Oh, yes, you caught the llama vibe and made it your own with emus. I am still laughing and can picture the story unfolding. This is why I love revision and consider it elemental to writing. Thanks for asking and allowing me to be Prof!

  2. SueSpitulnik

    A great set of balloon stories. I recognized so many scenes from my own life. Thanks for sharing.

    Scott, I liked your unique take on the prompt. The visual from each mistake moved the story along with perfect clearness and had an ending that made me chuckle with understanding.

    • Scott Bailey

      Thanks, Sue. There’s probably a word for that type of story telling, but I was just trying something a little different from what I usually do.

  3. Writing Sparkle

    What a great collection!

    • Charli Mills

      It’s a fun collection this week!

  4. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Jenny Logan, always a pleasure to read you here. This seems a true tale? The line ‘a bit merry and oblivious’ is subtly perfect, it set the scene, that is I’ve seen that dad or someone like. Fun!

  5. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Charli Mills, it is so good to see your 99-word vignettes. This feels like it could be from a longer larger story, or maybe that’s because it feels like you know these characters well. It’s somewhat story spine-ish, as we find out why she’s so upset and are given a satisfying ending.

    (See what I’m doing? I’m following Scott’s lead and using this space to address the unlinked among us. But now I gotta go, it might be a bit before I get to the linked.)

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for addressing the unlinked, D.! There’s a rooted sense to these Nevadans who give me space to explore. I wondered if I could make something meaningful of grief.


  1. #99Word Stories, Mud On the Tires & #Six Sentence Stories, Knot | ShiftnShake - […] sure to go to Carrot Ranch to read the complete “Balloons On A Bumper” collection from last week. And…
  2. Blogging Friends, In Real Life - […] September 15: “Three, Two, One: Bumper Balloons,” in response to Carrot Ranch‘s prompt: balloons on a […]
  3. Mud on the Tires of Life – 99-word-story – Miss Judy Writes - […] Read last week’s 99-word Collection, Balloons on the Bumper. […]
  4. Mud on the Tires #99WordStories | Norah Colvin - […] The collection of stories made in response to the previous prompt Balloons on a Bumper, including mine, can be read…

Discover more from Carrot Ranch Literary Community

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading