April 17: 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.

April 17, 2023

“No, Mause, no!”

It’s day two of 70+ degrees Fahrenheit on the Keweenaw Peninsula, a rocky spine that juts into the cold belly of Lady Lake Superior. But not cold enough this year, so it seems, to avoid the unpredictability of climate change. Winter was off this year. Spring arrived drunk on strawberry wine snitched from a warmer region, which caused a poop dilemma.

You see, Mause poops on the mound of snow that builds up between our front yard and our neighbors’ pristine property. Usually, the snow mound melts like a glacier from beneath, sucking water from the packed icy layers of winter. This year, Spring pulled up and lit a bonfire. We could sit outside and watch the mounds and berms deflate had we accepted Spring’s offer of wine. But poop bombs emerged at an alarming pace, one layer defecating (secondarily) onto the next.

Having arrived home from class, I saw the poop drama unfolding. I changed clothes and stepped into my yellow rubbers that have weird high heels as if I might decide to go out dancing after chores. For the moment, I matched my steps to the grip of the rake. I had a good poop pile going when Todd and Mause arrived home from a walk. Too late, I realized Mause’s intent.

When we first got Mause in January 2021, she was tiny and mighty — Mause the Leaf Killer. If any stray maple leaf took to the air, Mause was on it. As snow melted and more overwintered leaves emerged, she hunted after each one. She grew–not a lot but enough–cultivating a love of chasing airborne things. Mause is a bird dog, thus her instincts are spot on, but she’s also a companion to Todd. That’s how Kick Snow came to be.

Lacking patience at a nuclear level (thank you TBIs for your service), Todd invents games to pass time. This means he gets agitated waiting for a dog to find the right place to poop in the snow. So Todd kicks the snow. After the first kick, Mause realized snow flies. Game on! Throughout winter, I’d hear her barking and step outside to see her leaping through the air the way dogs chase Frisbees. Even at the Dog Park, Mause will pass over all other games to play Kick Snow.

The game has seasonal components. In the summer, it’s lawn trimmings; in the fall, it’s leaves. In the winter, of course, it’s snow. Spring? Well, that’s how I came to raking an epic pile of winter-compressed-dog doo-pancakes. Mause ran for the pile with her mouth wide open. In mid-rake, a swath of released poop flew inter her open maw. She landed, sputtering, then barked for me to rake again. I gagged. Todd howled. Now you know why I was shouting, “No, Mause, no!”

And then, in a flash of a pile of anything kicked in the air, Spring fled. Snow covers everything, once again. The crocus blooms and tulip leaves slumber deep in white piles. That didn’t stop the new birds in town, though. The dark-eyed juncos have come to Roberts Street. Not leaves, snow, trimmings, or poop. Birds, real birds.

April 17, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story of something/someone dark-eyed. What could be a dark-eyed situation? Or is it a dark-eyed beauty? A dark-eyed junco? Maybe it’s a futuristic piece of technology. Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by April 22, 2023. Please use the form below if you want to be published in the weekly collection. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Stories must be 99 words. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Writers retain all copyrights to any stories published at Carrot Ranch.
  3. A website or social media presence is not required to submit. A blog or social media link will be included in the title of any story submitted with one.
  4. Please include your byline with your title on one line. Example: Little Calves by Charli Mills. Your byline can be different from your name.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99WordStories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts on social media.

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  1. denmaniacs4

    Mause as muse…well done, Charli…

  2. Kate

    Some slate-coloured dark-eyed juncos stay where I live all year long, others pass through in the spring and then again in the fall. For the last two years, there’s been a pair who like to visit my deck a fair bit and hop around on it. They are such fun to watch and listen to in the mornings.

  3. Liz H

    ???????????? This is great comedy. Waiting to hear where Maus scatters the poop, once that light, later layer melts back. Welcome all of Spring in her bi-polar glory this year…????????????????

  4. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Phew! I wasn’t quite sure what the prompt was going to be.
    Was reminded of a snow-woman my brother built once upon a time. There was not much around in all the snow for hair and eyes so she ended up with blond hay hair and the most lovely dark eyes, formed from frozen cow poop that was handy by. Her name was Loretta. She stood looking wistfully out at the road, was there to greet the school bus at day’s end. When it warmed up it looked like her mascara was running. For some, like Loretta the snow-woman, mourn the end of winter.

  5. sweeterthannothing

    Your post this week is very funny and heartwarming! I would have loved to see a game of fling the frosty poop! Though I’m glad I wasn’t there for the clean up 😀

    My take on your prompt this week is a little on the spooky side 🙂

  6. Colleen M. Chesebro

    Oh Wow, Charli… I’m thrilled the prompt wasn’t to write about poop! LOL! This is hilarious. I think I heard Todd laughing here in EL. LOL!

    • Sue Spitulnik

      I must be the only one that thought about writing about frozen poop would have been fun.

  7. Kerry E.B. Black

    Such a charming essay, and for me, the eyes held three responses! (More if I allow myself, but I must force myself to complete these other projects. I think I neglected the title for the first two submissions. The first is “Beauty in the Beholders’ Eyes” which is based on a sadly true story. The second is simply “Wedding Day.” The last is “Rides for the Dark-Eyed.”

  8. Jules


    This spring has been a challenge for everyone. Temps dipping to freezing, then up in the 80’s.
    My frost free outside date is May 15th!

    I added to my ‘Wise’ series. For anyone wanting to read from start to finish there is a link to a page with the whole ‘she-bang’ at the post; Wise Eyes

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