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April 24: Story Challenge in 99-words

As the snow recedes (again), a hillside in Hancock is covered in purple crocus. I didn’t know what to expect when our false spring arrived hot enough to force blooms and buds only to dip back below freezing with back-to-back blizzards. Would the buried blooms rise again?

The color of hope is purple. Or is it?

Todd has shoveled the last of the ice and snow from our deck. He sits outside, arms crossed, smoking his pipe. It’s 31 degrees Fahrenheit outside, which is below zero Celsius. His beanie is pulled low over his ears. He calls for me to, “Come, see.”

In the Poet Tree two tiny birds dance upside down and around and around the trunk. The male’s feathers are bluer than the female’s gray ones. A pair of nuthatches. Todd tells me they are the tiniest woodpeckers in Michigan.

Hmmm. I don’t argue. Hope never has to be right. Nuthatch or tiny woodpecker, I’m still smiling over the light in his eyes earlier. He was animated over YouTube getting the algorithms dialed in to preview videos they predicted he’d like.

We share my YouTube so he doesn’t have to watch commercials. He likes to watch interviews with operators, past Vikings football games, Casual Geographic, Dave Stamey, and SNL skits. I research weird things, as fiction writers often do, watch courses on Jungian psychology, and listen to Yanni. YouTube is likely confused over predicting what our account might watch. But this morning, they delivered Todd previews of The Red Green Show.

It might seem a little thing, and hope usually is, but I enjoyed every minute of him standing in the doorway to my Unicorn Room, laughing, eyes lit up, pleased to have YouTube understand his sense of humor for once. He acted out this entire scene for “Delicate” and had me rolling on my yoga mat, laughing. At that moment, hope was all Red (Green).

The night before, we went out on a dinner date with three Vietnam veteran couples. I marveled at how we could laugh, swap stories, tease “the guys,” and share a meal despite the numerous medical trips to the VA we are all facing. One couple is headed to Milwaukee, another to Wausau, and the rest of us making “day” trips to Marquette or Iron Mountain. We gather because we don’t give up hope.

Maybe we circle back to hope to be the color purple. I wonder why injured soldiers are awarded Purple Hearts. Because purple is hopeful? Injured but alive? None of our group has a Purple Heart. Such injuries sustained have to be in combat by enemy fire. There’s no medal for breaking down beneath the weight of having served. We are fine with that. We only want healthcare. What we face plays out in Season Two of Seal Teams in an episode called “Medicate and Isolate.”

The fact that Todd can watch a series reflect what it’s like to seek help for TBIs after service helps him feel heard. That’s a superpower writers have — to portray “what ifs” and “what it’s like” to people who feel invisible. It’s the reason I chose women’s fiction as my genre because I wanted to write the stories I knew about women but never saw portrayed in books or films. Hope could be a different color; a specific color; the rainbow.

I need hope this week. It’s been increasingly difficult for me to go to class at Finlandia. Only one or two students show up. Half my class has left though some are turning in assignments online. My idea to buoy hope with journal writing led to depressing responses. This is my last week. I will hold a pizza party for my final exam next Monday. I’ll grade papers, issue grades, clean out my office, and close a chapter I thought would be longer.

Yet, on a hillside in Hancock, purple crocus bloom. No matter the color of hope, we only need a smidge.

April 24, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about the color of hope. Who is in need of hope and why? How can you use color to shape the story? Pick a color, any color. Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by April 30, 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.


  1. Anne Goodwin says:

    I feel for you, Charli. Even good endings are hard work and this one is heart breaking. And extra tough when you’re putting so much effort into giving the students a good-enough ending but (inevitably) they have different ways of coping … or avoiding. I hope you get some rest.

  2. Anne Goodwin says:

    .I feel for you, Charli. Even good endings are hard work and this one is heart breaking. And extra tough when you’re putting so much effort into giving the students a good-enough ending but (inevitably) they have different ways of coping … or avoiding. I hope you get some rest.

  3. ceayr says:

    I like the idea of emotions having colours.
    My story:

  4. Charli Mills when you go into that classroom don’t forget this whole Ranch is there with you. You don’t ride alone. I’m so sorry for all of you that the end of this school year is the end of that school. Celebrate these students and their work as best you can. This might be a good prompt for those students that remain. The colors of hope.
    I’m glad you get some breaks at home with nuthatches, dinners, and Red Green. I love that show, it is one of the best. Wait till Todd sees what Red can do with duct tape.
    Hang in there.

  5. Norah says:

    A smidge is a start. It’s enough to get us up in the morning and seek spring’s warmth. Spring is the season of hope, of new beginnings. School finishes as winter did, but spring arrives (if somewhat reluctantly) and hope remains. New opportunities open as every crocus unfurls. Watch them dance like those little nuthatches.
    I’m not aware of the Red Green show, but playing Scattergories can be such fun. I loved the image I got of Todd performing the skit and you rolling around on the floor in the Unicorn Room laughing. Sometimes laughter is the best (and only) medicine.

  6. Like D said, Charli, you have all of us who you inspire to write at the Carrot Ranch with you. Over the years I been coming to the Carrot Ranch, I’ve watched you create amazing writers who would not be where they are today without the help you give us.
    You’ve made many dreams come true, including the one I had as a child which was to become a published author. A big thank you from me.

  7. I laughed at the imagery of Todd recreating a story for you from the Red Green show. Laughter is healing. And, the old saying about when one door closes, another opens… embrace that feeling. Fling open the windows and shout! We got writing to do! 🥳

  8. denmaniacs4 says:

    Love the reference to the classic Canadian humour show, Red Green. Here is a wonderful Red Green punster reading: The Winter of Our Discount Tent:

  9. Pal says:

    *Look’t thet. Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Thet’s somethin Kid used ta say, even though we ain’t nowhere near a ocean.
    Jeez, look’t these italics. Means I’m talkin ta m’self. No choice. Ernie’s hangin out with Sassysquatch, an Pepe’s spendin his time with Logatha, what with ‘spectin a bambeano. Frankie’s cranky an has ta git the mail delivered. Logatha’s cuzzin, Cheri D’Sharte is likely around somewheres but I don’t quite trust her. Never know if she’s comin or goin. An Shorty, she’s jist plain busy. Jist me unner a dark cloud, d’spite thet pink sunset, hopin Kid returns.*

    • Kid better return. He’s as important as Shorty and the gang. We’re watchin’ out for him, just as the Ranch is watchin’ out for Shorty. Good thing we have virtual hugs to send around.

  10. denmaniacs4 says:

    I love Canadian humour getting its due…Red Green was hoot… Here’s another play on language…

  11. Thanks for another great prompt. I missed the last couple, so I made a point to carve out time for 99-words today.

  12. Charli,
    My heart is with you and your students. I imagine at their age the school closing could feel like getting abandoned or even a death of sorts. And, it could affect you that way too. As Dede said, you are not alone.
    I recorded a podcast last week, that won’t go live until July, and I had a blast talking about my international friends from Carrot Ranch. The couple that invited me were at the seminar you gave while in Rochester. You hold us up and now it’s our turn to hold you up.
    Big hugs, and much laughter with Todd, and whatever kids you are around, two legged and four.

  13. I think mine might count as uplifting this week… I hope so anyway 🙂

  14. Jules says:


    Hope does come in rainbow colors and can be found everywhere at any time (((Hugs)))!!!

    Wise Black

    “…you wear black
    perhaps a widow,
    or for stealth…”

    The Genving gently asked the Old woman; as if they were old friends. And perhaps they were. Momentarily each remembered in her own way when they were in their youth and the Genving was rescued by the old woman’s brother. The boy had been alerted of the other’s fall by his young sister.

    The old woman said she wore black, hoped to show her power over man and beast. Then brought out the split bloodied rocks. “I’ve done ‘im in.”

    “I owe you twice now, it seems,” said the Genving.

    © JP/dh

  15. Liz H says:

    Looks like we’re posting on the comments, so here I go:

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