November 7: Story Challenge in 99-words

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.

November 7, 2022

Farms can be squeaky places. Fence posts squeak over time. Dust in the truck brakes or unoiled wheelbarrows creak. Wind rouses anything loose or unhinged. Various critters and humans encountering the unexpected can emit all kinds of high-pitched responses. Even fresh cheese curds made can squeak with each bite.

The mystery of daylight savings time has descended upon the Keweenaw and it’s now officially the dark of the year in this place. Driving to my daughter’s farm, I can see through the woods after all the leaves have dropped. Naked trees wait for their winter coats of snow, reminding me to get my wool coat to the cleaners.

At the farm, apple trees denuded of leaves still cling to fruit. Some globes are yellow, others red. A future farm project is cider but for now, the farmers have enough to do with goats and pigs. One herd has expanded while the other munches dropped apples during their last week before they go to the local butcher. The farm sold all their pork shares in a single day and gained six new goats over two weeks.

I’m here for goats, not bacon. I want to watch the babies and see the wonder of Pegus Sue’s triplets.

Nubian goats don’t squeak. They scream and bleat. The mamas vocalize, calling for their babies. Beast, the only remaining male goat from last year’s herd is the companion to the billy, Big Chip. His mama is Belle, a small half-Nubian and half-dwarf goat who is a bit off. She was a freebie when my daughter and her husband started their herd last year, and Beast was born at Ghost House Farm. She also gave birth this week to a buckling and when she calls for him, Beast responds outside. What, Mom? I’m right here, Mom! Mom? A new brother is confusing Beast.

Molly had two bucklings a week and a half ago, and Peggy gave birth two days ago to triplets — two bucklings and a doeling. The oldest two rascals thought Auntie Peggy sprawled in the hay to play with them. My daughter found Peggy in labor with Molly’s buckings jumping on and off the prone goat. Peggy accepted the play in stride, but when Belle pushed Molly out of the barn, chaos followed. While Allison and Drew helped Peggy, Belle attempted to kill her nephews.

It must have been a hot mess at the time. Molly bellering outside the barn, run off by Belle. Belle silently head-butting and stomping at Molly’s twins in a corner. The twins crying, terrified. Belle’s new baby bleating and Beast calling from the divide across the barn where he and Big Chip live temporarily.

My daughter told me how she stayed with Peggy who was struggling with her second birth because the amniotic sac hadn’t broken. She said Drew built a fast makeshift divide while he also attempted to keep Belle from killing Molly’s twins. When Allison couldn’t get the second-born goat to breathe, she said she hollered for Drew but he had fenced himself off from her and Peggy. All’s well that turns out well. The second goat (named Carrot, by the way) found his breath.

A calm followed the chaos. Goats were safe and less vocal. Everyone had access to the hay chute. When it seemed the craziness had ended, Peggy dropped a third baby. Triplets. No wonder she had been in such discomfort the past three weeks. She’s a good mama, though and she lets all three nurse. The doeling is Vidalia, and the third sibling is Cabbage. The bucklings are spotted like fawns but will keep their markings. The doeling is an exact copy of Peggy.

I did not get to experience the high drama of Peggy’s labor because I’ve been submerged in Film Fest as if it were an artesian well ready to fill mine. Film was the first tool I learned from my mentor and advisor when I was in an undergrad writing program. From my prof, I learned how to study story structure and scene transitions, as well as plot and characterization. I’ve used film to teach my English comp students, too.

41 North Film Fest arrives with the dark of the year. It is my light. The best movies are the ones that inspire me. The worst ones are the films that depress me and leave viewers without a resolution or hope. But nothing viewed goes wasted. Discussions expand my perspective. Listening to filmmakers describe their vision or reason for their films, enlightens me. Hearing panels of researchers respond to documentaries gives me a deeper understanding. While the farm turned, I snort-laughed, cried, and sparked an internal eternal fire of creativity we all share.

If you want to view a sample of films I watched over four days, I created a playlist of trailers for my students. I used these trailers to teach analysis.

My favorite film and why? “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” Brilliant movie. Brilliant writing. Brilliant mastery of everything everywhere having to do with storytelling. You know how in the persona’s journey the first scene is to show the ordinary world? Well, this movie begins there but creates a brilliant hub. In part, the genre helps — it is sci-fi meets contemporary as the ordinary world swings in and out of the multi-verse. It’s the combination of how to tell a story that makes this film relevant and absurd all at once.

One of my favorite scenes follows a trippy fight between mother and daughter. As they battle, the two characters slip in and out of their many selves in different universes. Written, the scene is short sharp staccato sentences. On the screen, it’s a flashing disco ball of action. Then, suddenly the shot spans wide over a desert scene. The action stops. And this scene unfolds:

Leave it to me to think the best scene ever written this year involves the existential battle between two rocks. I snort-laughed out loud. Twice. And squealed. Rocks.

November 7, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes something squeaky. What is squeaky and why? How does it move the story or disrupt a character? Listen, write, and go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by November 12, 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 either the Challenge or Collection posts on social media.

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

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  1. Norah

    The episode with the goats sounds traumatic, Charli. Good thing you were at the film fest. How wonderful for there to be a movie with an existential battle between two rocks. Definitely perfect for you. No squeaking going on there. I haven’t watched any of the movies on your playlist but watched the first couple of trailers. I may come back to watch the others later. I was stunned by what I saw of ‘Fire of Love’. There are all types of people in this world. I guess that’s what makes it interesting.

    • Charli Mills

      Allison and Drew managed goat chaos well with their grounded pragmatic ways. I got to let my mind and heart soar and explore films instead, although I did take a break to hold newborn goats. Ha, I returned to Film Fest smelling a bit goaty, though. Even the film trailers are evocative, Norah. The film “Fire of Love” was a stunning glimpse at an era when scientists used film to gain grant funding. Vulcanologists do dangerous work, although the vulcanologists at Michigan Tech explained how modern technology reduces some of the danger. The film was a compelling story about curiosity, human drive, and how science can inform us. I agree — all types of people make for an interesting world. Like stories, humans are unique combinations.

      • Norah

        If these baby goats are you ‘grand’ kids, does that make you a nanny ‘goat’. ???? Couldn’t resist. Sorry. Just kidding.
        I’ve never met a vulcanologist. It would be fascinating, I imagine.
        Let’s celebrate that uniqueness. 🙂

  2. Jules

    I’ve been away from farms for a very long time. I can’t even imagine the goings on that you describe. But at least you give us an ‘inkling’.

    I posted my response… Maybe not the direction most will go, but I went with where I had to go.

    Continued success at the farm and all other undertakings ~ Jules

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