November 28: 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 28, 2022

We gnawed the turkey bones clean after we soaked the twenty-pound bird in a Riesling and herbs brine, slid sage and butter beneath its skin, and roasted it for five hours. Turkey sandwiches with a slather of mayo and cranberry sauce consoled me after my children flew away. Once again, the nest is empty.

The visit was divine.

Bug and her partner, Josh, arrived from Montana the Sunday before Thanksgiving. They had flown to the states earlier to attend a good friend’s traditional Indian wedding in Washington, DC. Then, they returned to their properties and stuff in storage in Montana. It’s complicated living overseas on an arctic achipelago but they do well. It’s been five long years since I had seen my favorite middle daughter.

My favorite eldest daughter and I waited up until 1 am before their plane finally landed on the Keweenaw Peninsula. We were giddy! We hugged, hugged, and hugged some more. The couple stayed at the Ghost House Farm and I was there every day. Todd got to visit, too and by the grace of the brain gods, he handled the week well.

On Wednesday, my favorite son, Kyle, and his wife, Leah, drove over from Wisconsin. The siblings were like a reunited pack of pups. Mause was beside herself. She barked at first. She recognizes Allison, but the other two smelled of faraway places, one of polar bears, the other of cheese. Mause adjusted. We had everything from a 100-year-old recipe of enchiladas to cast-iron Brussels with bacon and Parmesan. Thanksgiving fit as the final meal unless you count pie and leftovers at breakfast the next day.

We puzzled. The kids brought me a gift on Wednesday as I was cooking all day — a puzzle with pieces that feel like velvet. The colors are matte so there is no glare. It’s a game-changer. Speaking of games, I lost every one I played but I could not be happier. It’s been so long since we all chased sheep as Settlers of Catan. We played Scrabble, and they all marveled over my kayaking/camping Scrabble board. And, of course, the Ghost House favorite — Wingspan.

The house is quiet and decorated for Solstice (when flights and cars depart, I turn to decorating and Trans Siberian Orchestra for solace). Mause whines. I tell her they will not be away for so long again. I tell her we can go visit the dog park or her farm cousins. I’m so blissed out and blessed to have had the time to be fully present to my grown children.

Alas, the transition back to teaching and tutoring at Finlandia has returned quickly. I have no idea why, but the silly phrase, “not my monkeys, not my circus” created an earworm. Not a song, but it gives me a funny visual as I attempt to re-enter the post-visit world.

November 28, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the saying, “not my monkeys, not my circus”. What is the situation that would spawn that aphorism? Have fun with setting and characters! Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by December 3, 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.

You May Also Like…


  1. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    That saying was often said down in the trenches back when I labored in the salt mines.
    Enjoy your high-wire acts and other dazzling displays in the ring this week Boss. We’ll hold the net here.

    • Anne Goodwin

      Salt mines? Thanks for that, I was wondering where it came from.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        That’s not where it came from. In fact I didn’t really work in the salt mines. But that was a mantra in the days of being in the trenches .

      • Anne Goodwin

        I did get the joke 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Well, D., maybe I was feeling a bit salty about returning to work when the phrase came to mind, yet I also thought it could have a quirky, festive interpretation, too. At least they aren’t muddy monkeys! Thanks!

      • Liz H

        “Salty monkeys.” Now there’s a prompt-worthy image…

      • pedometergeek

        Ever since I read your blog, every time something went wrong this week, all I could think was “not my circus, not my monkeys.” Hopefully, now that I have written and submitted my 99-word story, I will lose that ear-worm. ~nan

  2. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    “Hey Pal. Yer lookin a might frazzled. What’s the problem?”
    “In a word, Frankie— Kid. It’s always somethin. If it ain’t the whinin, it’s weaslin outta chores. Or some harebrained scheme or two-bit contraptions. Use ta be quiet an simple, this ranchin life. Then Kid showed up, always turnin it inta a dang circus, always monkeyin aroun.”
    “Whoa, Pal. Did Shorty say ya have ta manage Kid?”
    “Not really, it’s jist…”
    “It’s Shorty’s Ranch, Pal. If she was worried bout Kid she’d boot ‘em out. Where is Shorty anyway?”
    “Kid’s been practicin magic acts.”
    “Oh shift.”
    “An Shorty’s disappeared!”
    “Hey Frankie! Pal. I did not make Shorty disappear. Anyways disappearances was fer a earlier challenge prompt. Pay attenchun.”
    “You pay attenchun, Kid. Magic acts ain’t zactly circus fare.”
    “They could be. Jist goin where the prompt leads.”
    “So where is Shorty at?”
    “In that box there. She volunteered fer one a my magic acts. I’m gonna saw her in half. Purty cool, huh Frankie?”
    “With my one eye I always saw her in half Kid, see ever’thin in half. But I wholeheartedly feel ya should git her outta that box.”
    “Too late!”
    “No, that’s her full height.”

    • Charli Mills

      Ha! Frankie sees all in halves! We don’t want Kid to go away. Kid is magic.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Unfortunately for the teacher in that video, who is acknowledging that he is in fact responsible for his students in his classroom, he also has admin who will do ridiculous things at their level which he is not responsible for and cannot fix. It is said by those who recognize bad management and decisions but are not heard and cannot help solve the situation, kind of an acceptance to keep on in the face of what one cannot change anyway. A verbal throwing up of the hands.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Oh, and it seems to come from a Polish proverb.

      • pedometergeek

        I guess the saying doesn’t apply to all of us this week if we want to write a story. Now, to come up with a story idea. ~nan

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Nan, I am no expert, but that is my interpretation. I am a staunch believer in an open interpretation of ‘go where the prompt leads’. This could be a lot of fun.

      • Charli Mills

        Teacher in the video? I was watching Anne’s video on her prequel and laughing. Did I miss something else? D., maybe I didn’t think about how the phrase might be used in the salt mines.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Oops. This morning the tiktok thingy was weird on my computer and I went to the Joshua King link below Anne’s picture. Yep, hers is pretty clever, now I see it in full.
        I’m looking forward to the different takes and interpretations of the prompt, even if it did trigger me initially.

      • Anne Goodwin

        That classroom is no longer your circus D. And yeah, I think the direct translation from the Polish is easier to understand.

      • pedometergeek

        See my above comment, D, posted under Liz’s comment about how my week went (if this makes any sense at all).

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, Anne! I’m cracking up! You have really taken to TikTok. And, you are expressing the fun quirkiness I had hoped to elicit with the phrase. And it was okay saying goodbyes because we all felt so good about the visit. It’s been rough on my family, the downward spiraling of Todd’s condition. But I think we all have much more compassion and grace, and fewer expectations. They are all my favorite children in their own ways beyond birth order.

      • Anne Goodwin

        Alas, the story I submitted is more grumpy. Or maybe satire.
        I’m glad you’re all adjusting. This will be a holiday to remember.
        I’d today I’m trying sharing 99 word stories on TT, although a minute is a long time on the app.

  3. Liz H

    I heard a variant on that saying, but it’s not 99 words:
    Not my circus, not my monkeys.
    My monkeys have wings.

    Glad you had a blessed holiday!

    • Charli Mills

      Ha! Liz, those are definitely my monkeys! Yes, it was blissful and blessed.

  4. Jules


    Glad you had fun with your family. We had family in from outta town too. And even the in-towners got together. They were nice enough the youngin’s to share some cold germs. One of the kiddo’s Mom’s looked like a monkey gonna turn green round the gills!!

    I don’t think I’ve ever hear of that ‘Not my Monkeys, Not my circus’ before but I got her done…

    Best to all those recovering from visits and attempting normality, whatever that is. ~J

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Jules, hope you have recovered from the many types of shares during the holidays! We lucked out in the germ department. Best to you normally or abnormally!

      • Jules

        If all I got was a few extra germs …I guess I’m good 😉

        All the best to you in your teaching and reaching and well everything else too! ????

      • Charli Mills

        Thanks, Jules!

  5. Norah

    What a wonderful Thanksgiving, Charli. I’m pleased you had such a good time. I always love to have all my children together too – children, partners and their children – all my children. It’s indescribable joy. I’m pleased Todd was settled enough to enjoy some of the occasion too.
    I’ve never heard the phrase ‘not my monkeys …’, but I’ll enjoy thinking on possibilities.
    Enjoy getting back to your teaching routine.

    • Charli Mills

      Indescribable joy captures the feeling when we are all gathered. More people — partners, grand, extended families — more to love. I enjoy this point in the teaching process when I get to see students bloom in their writing. Thanks, Norah!

  6. TanGental

    Never heard that expression and it’s a tricky blighter in 99 words, but I’m sure there’s a corner of Little Tittweaking that will accommodate it…

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      I will give you a heads up. Kid and Pepe are planning to fill a clown car with citizens of Tittweaking.
      I think this saying is akin to “If I ran the zoo…” or “I don’t run the zoo…” But it’s a circus. (But not my circus)

      • TanGental

        Exactly… I think…

  7. denmaniacs4

    Tricky prompt, Charli. I am sure I have heard that saying in a movie but that may simply be my imagination/poor memory…pretty much the same condition.

  8. Colleen M. Chesebro

    I’m just thrilled that everything went so well, Charli. It sounds like the best time ever. And Todd made it through. WOO HOO! That is amazing. Settle in… let’s connect during your Christmas break and plan for next year. I have a book tour for the next two weeks as Fairies, Myths, & Magic II is finally published. ????

  9. suespitulnik

    Charli, I’m so happy you had all your favorites together for Thanksgiving. The news Todd had a good week too was extra special.
    Reading the comments and how many people hadn’t heard, “not my monkeys, not my circus,” is surprising to me. I hear it all the time in western NY state. Interesting! I too will look forward to the stories.
    Happy Solstice! May you adjust to daily responsibilities with your usual grace.

  10. Sarah Brentyn

    Happy belated Thanksgiving. Sounds like you had a lovely holiday visiting with your children. Wishing you peace and light in the coming season and new year. ????

Discover more from Carrot Ranch Literary Community

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

Continue reading