October 31: Story Challenge in 99-words

Written by Charli Mills

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

October 31, 2022

Happy Holidays, Carrot Ranchers! Today is Nevada Day; it is Halloween to the rest of the US. Many have celebrated Diwali this past week, and others will honor the bones of ancestors, believing the veil that separates the living from the dead thins on the Día de los Muertos. Allhallowtide is a three-day observance of All Hollow’s Eve to All Hallow’s Day to All Soul’s Eve.

No matter what you do or don’t celebrate at this mid-equinox time, sweets will likely be involved. Do you have favorites?

As a young mom, I remember instructing my children to not eat any candy until I inspected their Halloween haul. Todd and I grew up in an era when disturbed people put razor blades and needles in apples, boxes of raisin, or candy bars. I grew up in the California mountains 100 miles south, and he grew up in Nevada 100 miles east of Nevada’s “Biggest Little City” where such things happened in the ’60s and ’70s.

The wheels in my mind spin, remembering the fear of tampered candy that has now become an urban myth. Weird, to remember newspaper headlines, police warnings on TV stations, and the rise of alternative parties in women’s magazines only to find the contemporary myth on Snopes and in the Urban Dictionary. The modern chroniclers do have one thing correct — no one ever died. But the fear was palpable and lingered into my children’s childhoods. Using my Newspapers account, I had to look up some of those old articles from the Nevada and California regions. No one needed to die for the rest of us to fear punctured lips and sliced gums. As parents, we acted accordingly.

What we celebrated, and what we feared leaves a lasting impression on who we become. Yet, we continue to evolve. We never stop becoming until our last breath. Yet, we tend to experience the cycle of years with their markers for seasons and holidays as unchangeable. I could easily believe that the Halloween of today is the same as the Halloween of yesterday. It takes a distance of years in decades to see the vast difference. It takes courage to examine the difference without trying to erase or make permanent earlier truths. Not everyone is willing to hop on the bus of becoming, though. Nostalgia has a deep pull on our heartstrings.

I grew up in a tiny town that celebrated Halloween like we were secret pagans. Oh, the glee of impending Halloween in its complete Celtic triad. I can still feel wiggles of anticipation; leftover whispers from childhood. I can slip easily into the skin of nostalgia. Waking up on the morning of our all-school Halloween party where the older grades created a haunted house for the younger ones. Our school closed on Nevada Day (October 31) because half our student population attended high school across the border. We partied on October 30 and 31. In town, the Forest Service held a party at their headquarters after all of us county kids paraded through town. I was known to bring a mule. November 1, the Day of the Dead, we recovered from our sugar highs.

Such nostalgia would lead me to believe that the trick-o-treaters at my door continue a tradition I knew and loved. Teaching young college students sets me straight. In their weekly reflections, they relate different experiences of Halloween. None mentioned fearing razor blades. Or stampeding a mule down Main Street because Pizanno didn’t want three witches on his back. Costumes have evolved. I love the simple ones as much as the clever creations. My kids still like to dress up and party with the real Wiccans. These days, I’m more interested in finding ancestral connections to tending stories, stones, and dreams as I become.

When I worked in marketing communication, I remember learning the adage, don’t reinvent the wheel. Original thought and creative content doesn’t mean you need a new conveyance. Apply that idea to storytelling. There are so few wheels to apply to story structure you can add them up with your fingers. According to Jungians, there are only seven different story plots in existence the world over. Academics and modern authors might deviate from that number (some say six, some claim 36) but all the stories we know have already been written.

Therefore, don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Instead, keep those wheels rolling in the stories will flow endlessly. That’s your thought to ponder, and your prompt to get you wheeling. Enjoy your holiday as the season shift and we continue to become.

“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’

‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

~ Margery Williams Bianco, The Velveteen Rabbit

October 31, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about how the wheels keep turning. Are the wheels tangible or metaphorical? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by November 5, 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. Stories must be 99-words.
  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 #99WordStories when sharing the Challenge or Collection posts on social media.

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

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  1. Norah

    Happy Halloween, Charli! Enjoy your celebration. The celebration is starting to take hold over here. My grandchildren are looking forward to Halloween parties tonight, something that neither I nor my children did. It’s that recent here, so the memories that many of my generation hold onto is that ‘Halloween’ isn’t an Australian thing.
    I wrote a Halloween story for the Halloweensie contest and followed it up with a flash fiction for your ‘bones’ prompt. I was a bit concerned my story might be too scary, so searched for information about poisons and razors and other scary things you mentioned. I also discovered they were mostly urban myths, but did come up with a couple of rather horrifying (true) tales, both involving parents harming children. So sad.
    Your words ‘keep those wheels rolling’ reminded me of the Rawhide theme song. Certain patterns do that to me at times. It would be (maybe) easy to write a new version to the song’s tune.
    I also loved that extract from ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’. How wonderful to not appear ugly to those who understand. We need a whole lot more understanding in the world. ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ also made me think of ‘The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane’ by Kate DiCamillo. Such beautiful stories.
    Have fun!

    • Charli Mills

      Happy All Hallow’s Eve, Norah! I recall you mentioning before that Halloween was not an Australian thing. “They” say Irish and Scot Celts brought the tradition to America but I think Australia has a similar heritage. I know the three days of Halloween are also feast days in the Catholic Church. I shook my head at an article arguing whose holiday Halloween is. Isn’t to those who celebrate whatever it is they feel like celebrating? Samhain was more of a harvest party. Maybe Halloween didn’t take hold in the Southern Hemisphere because October is spring not fall. I’m not sure the commercialized version of Halloween is worth new traditions, but I know I loved dressing up as a kid so I understand the appeal.

      Yikes. That’s awful, stories of parents spiking their children’s treats. I can say, from lived experience, razor blades were no urban myth. I even saw a graphic image and remember all the footage of children dropping off pillowcases of candy to be x-rayed at the Reno Airport.

      Rawhide! I hear the pop of the whip breaking the sound barrier. You have a fun idea to play with the lyrics.

      We need beautiful stories to carry us through the dark ones. I love the idea of becoming and I’m all for breaking the myth of appearance as beauty. Beauty, no doubt, can manifest anywhere and anyone who takes care to beautify themselves or their clothes or home does no harm. It’s the lack of understanding beauty at deeper layers that allows us to see the beauty in a shabbily dress person or a lived-in home. May beauty be yours today!

      • TanGental

        The song I’m taken back to is Three Wheels on My Wagon by the New Christie Minstrels. To say it reinforces outdated stereotypes would be something of an understatement! I hope you both enjoyed All Hallows’ E’en though I must own to having more of an affinity for the Mexican’s Day of the Dead. Much my sort of festival!

      • pedometergeek

        Yeah, Charli, the razor blades and pins in apples or candy was no urban myth. We had it happen in the neighborhood where I lived growing up. For years parents could take the candy into the local sheriff’s office to have the treats x-rayed. I don’t know if treats are still monitored that way or not. Eventually, I think the powers-that-be made the suggestion that if a particular house wished to give our candy, apples, or other treats, they were asked to put on a porch light, and children were to skip any house without lights. Now that parents oversee trick-or-treat night with their children, I think that there isn’t the problem seen in the past. ~nan

      • Charli Mills

        Wishing you a grateful day of the dead, Geoff, with bones and sugar skulls. Sue Perkins has a great new Netflix series about doing things that are not illegal (but could be) to revive here middle years. She visits a cult of the dead and a Mexican village where they tend to the bones of their departed. Kind of like making every day a Day of the Dead. Enjoy!

      • Charli Mills

        Nan, thanks for validating my pins and needles (and razor blades) memories! I missed the transition to porch lights but heard neighbors in the Keweenaw speak to it. Funnyily enough, I thought it was specific to this area. Now I know its more widespread. Guess by skipping that disgruntle Halloween weenie of a neighbor, there are no more issues with junk in the junk food?

      • Norah

        Thank you, Charli. May beauty be yours too – today and every day.
        Your final comment circles back to one in your first paragraph – people should celebrate what and how they feel like. A little more understanding would help the world go round in peace.
        I’m not sure why Halloween took so long to take off over here. Perhaps we just like to take things slower. ???????? But maybe you’re right about the change of seasons. I’m not sure about three feast days in the Catholic Church at the same time of year. We had 2 holy days as I recall. All Souls Day and All Saints Day. They are probably still the same. I’m a little out of touch now.
        Your thanksgiving is a celebration I wouldn’t mind adopting. I think we could all learn to show a little more gratitude. It would have to be at a different time of year though for it to be a harvest thanksgiving.

      • Charli Mills

        I love Thanksgiving, Norah. I think it’s good to have feasts of celebration and gratitude. We need to slow down so it’s okay to be slow to adopt a global holiday. I’d love to learn more about Diwali this time of year, too. It’s a reminder of the inner light within. Maybe not all parishes celebrate the full Allhallowtide (or, Allhallowmass) which are the two feast days you mentioned plus All Hallow’s Eve. I think of it as the triad of candy, bones and souls, lol. Go ahead, host Thanksgiving at your place this year. Maybe it will catch on! Walk in beauty, my friend!

      • Norah

        Thank you, Charli. The world is a beautiful place! ????????????????

  2. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Pal Plots, Kid Walks

    “Nuther week’s rolled aroun, nuther prompt.”
    “Yep Kid. I’m gearin up fer yer crankiness as ya worry bout turnin out anuther story.”
    “It’s the same ol story, over an over. I ain’t gonna bother spinnin my wheels tryin ta git traction on anuther one. The quest fer fresh is over.”
    “Kid, Shorty was talkin bout story structure, basic plots. Wasn’t suggestin ya quit story tellin.”
    “Well, I ain’t writin, Pal.”
    “Fightin monsters!”
    “Stop plottin, Pal. I’m outta here.”
    “Voyage an return!”
    “I’ll be at Ernie’s fer a while.”
    “Roll on, Kid. Lotsa story potential there.”
    “See ya later Pal.”

    • Charli Mills

      May stories creep up on Kid, fill Ernie’s garage, and keep Pal a-plottin’.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        The stories will come. Seems like these two have taken to starting the thread here in comments, then another 99 in the collection and often another in the collection comments. They’re all over the place!

      • Charli Mills

        Kid and Pal ride the range, ranging near and far.

  3. Kate

    Your comment about there being so few wheels to apply to storytelling reminds me of a Mark Twain quote: ““There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.”
    Enjoy your celebrations.

    • Charli Mills

      Kate, thank you for sharing that Mark Twain quote. I’m surprised I didn’t know it! Yes, yes, yes. We reuse the same old pieces of colored glass. It’s the combinations, the different applied perspectives that make it all so different. Thanks!

  4. Doug Jacquier

    If there is a ‘bah, humbug’ equivalent for Hallowe’en, consider it on endless repeat on a loudspeaker outside my house. The supine way many Australians have embraced this fatuous commercially-inspired ‘tradition’ makes my skin crawl, in the same way that lollies/sweets have become candy, soft drinks have become sodas, take-away has become take-out, holidays have become vacations, chips have become fries, mates have become buddies, ‘music’ has embraced hos and gangstas, and the list goes on ad infinitum. The worst kind of cultural imperialism is that which is eagerly embraced by those that cringe in embarrassment at what came before and throw it away on a daily basis just like their slave-labour T-shirts and sneakers. End of rant.

    • TanGental

      And i was certain you were a fully paid up member of the woke glitterati, too, Doug. Just shows how you can misread a blog…

      • Doug Jacquier

        Sorry, TG, the irony is escaping me, if that’s what it is. 😉

      • TanGental

        I’m with you Doug. If I’m asked if I do irony I confess I’m happy to wear my creases with pride

      • Charli Mills

        Just don’t ask me to do ironing! 😀

      • TanGental

        Nor me!

    • Charli Mills

      I’m cringing at all my American culture is spreading across the globe like an oil slick. Not that it matters, but soda is west coast; most Americans say “pop.” The gansta stuff, though, this ho ain’t responsible for, lol! My students; I’ll blame them. They laugh at my lack of “culture.” And no one understands my John Wayne impersonation.

  5. Jules


    Traditions change over the years. One thing that was done here is that there is an age limit on children, they can only go to homes with porch lights on between 6p-8p (so no older teens without costumes ringing your bell at ten pm), and no one is allowed to give out anything but pre-wrapped treats. So no fruit or candy apples. Best to check youngun’s treats and toss anything that looks like it was tampered with. That’s still a caution.

    One tradition that at least in my area isn’t a much of a thing is Mischief Night – toliet paper trashing of neighbors homes and trees…, eggs at cars… not so nice stuff. Hubby said that when he was a kiddo and was involved with Mischief Night… on Halloween day they cleaned up their mess. But that was then…

    I’ve been to a bunch of costume parties. Those can be fun. But I turn my porch light off. I don’t need to spend money on all that candy or see most of the kiddos in store bought costumes.

    Hope you had fun. Cheers, Jules

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