May 30: 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.

May 30, 2023

Ah, I have returned to the Keweenaw, fully refreshed from my two weeks in Vermont. Readjustment was bumpy but nothing rough. One of my suitcases — the one near max weight fully loaded with books and rocks — took an extra day to get home. Todd did well on his own and I was able to get re-dialed into his unique mind frequency, much to my relief. Mause survived and is happy to have me back. The farm has rebounded and the farmers have happily prepared for market already. The Warrior Sisters are ready to regroup and new work is unfolding.

All is well.

Now, I’m going to tinker with dates! I had aligned the Challenges and Collections to my university class schedule, but since there is no more university, I’m going to switch it up to something that makes more sense to my new arrangement. Challenges will now go out on Tuesdays with the corresponding Collection publishing the following week on Thursdays. Writers will have a full week to submit. If you need clarification, post in the comments below.

On my final day in Vermont, I wrote what I had intended to be the next Challenge post. When I arrived home, not only had I lost one suitcase, the internet disappeared, too! I tried again on Monday before I realized it was a bigger problem than resetting the modem. But I had spent most of the day at the farm and had to wait until Tuesday (today) to call it in. Happily, both internet and missing suitcase returned to Roberts Street. It also provided some reflection time as I mapped out my new calendar of days.

The latest challenge prompt is based on a short essay from Vermont — not a place where I was born, but certainly a place that gives me roots. I can’t thank Kid & Pal’s author enough for the shared space to refresh my roots and wet my paddle when needed. My heart is filled with gratitude for great days past and great days to come. Vermont is a place that calls writers home — some of my literary heroes have summered or lived here from Annie Proulx to Wallace Stegner; some of my favorite modern writers live on a shared knoll above a a lake beneath a wooded mountain.

A Two-Slap Morning

Coffee in bed is a treat but even better when the coffee arrives in a travel mug. It means we are going out on the lake below the knoll. A home-waters paddle. Dede loans me a pair of Muck Boots because I’ll be entering the lake before the kayak. It’s been cold in the mornings, dipping below freezing at night. My feet will stay warm and dry in the boots.

We glide into the water, the morning sky, woods, and mountain mirrored on the surface. The leaves are so newly unfurled they are near-neon green. We alert to a rustling along the shoreline and Dede spots a mink with a coat so dark brown as to be a slinking shadow. She slips into a burrow and we glide past. Curious critters, almost as curious as two writers keen to see what there is to see. Mink paces us and we paddle as she gambols along the shore.

We all pause at a point of land shaved of grass and shrubs — a lakehouse lawn. We sip coffee and watch Mink watch Robin. Robin peeps softly as if she feels the presence of a predator. We float and wait. Mink makes her move, blasting out of the brush. Robin flaps and lifts up, up, up, escaping a breakfast she was to be featured as the main course. Exposed, Mink bounds away in arcing leaps and leaves our company.

We continue on, alert to the next critter or winged being to share sips of coffee.

At the mouth of the cove where the loons guard their two eggs, we veer away. Loon parents take turns nesting unless they both feel the need to protect their area so we don’t want to disturb them. It’s been years since they’ve had a successful hatch. This year, they are one of the earliest pairs to nest. Other lakes and ponds have paired loons, but not yet on nests. Dede’s sharp eyes catch movement gliding across the still water. A beaver, leaving a tell-tale v-wake.

I set down my coffee and paddle hard. I want to see Beaver. All around, I see the work of this industrious mammal — the lodge is at the mouth of the cove, and on all our paddles we see dams, chewed stumps, food piles, and beaver sticks. If it is Beaver, it will be my first sighting. Out West and even in the Keweenaw, they remain elusive. As we gain on Beaver, she slaps us a warning. My first beaver slap!

Whenever beavers feel threatened or need to warn others in their lodge or community, they hit the water with a hearty smack. I’m so delighted. I pause and return to my coffee, scanning to see where Beaver might emerge. After her tail slap, she dives. Her head pops up again and the chase resumes. we only want to watch her, but she’s had enough and Beaver warns us to back off a second time.

The day has barely begun and twice already I’ve been beaver slapped. It’s going to be a great day of many.

May 30, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a beaver slap. It can be an actual tail slap warning on the water or an imitation. Is a beaver slap the name of something — a new type of burger, perfume, or a sci-fi gadget? Take ecological and poetic licenses. Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by June 5, 2023. Please use the form below if you want to be published in the weekly collection. The Collection publishes on the Thursday 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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41 Comments

  1. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Sure hope slang doesn’t sling you into troubled waters with this one Boss. (Remember when you slipped with slag?)
    Glad you got your 47 pound bag and your internet back.

    • Anne Goodwin

      That’s where my mind went too 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Didn’t Freud suggest that’s where all our minds go? ????

    • Geoff

      Oh dear, do we all have porn-polluted minds….

      • Charli Mills

        With a serial about a place called Tittweaking, this prompt will likely churn the village waters!

      • Charli Mills

        Ha, ha!

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Rolling With the Punches

      “Ow!”
      “Beaver slap! No slap backs.”
      “What are you, twelve? I’m driving. That hurt.”
      “Had to do it. You don’t see very many faux wood-sided cars anymore. Ow!”
      “Punch buggy, no punch backs. Thank goodness VW remade bugs.”
      “You girls stop hitting each other right now, or you’ll walk!”
      “Oh my gosh, that was a perfect imitation of mom. We used to drive her crazy with beaver slaps and Bug punches.”
      The women sat in silence through the red light. At green the younger sister spoke. “Will she be all right?”
      “She’s not getting any younger. Ow!”
      “Prius pinch.”

      • Charli Mills

        Oh, those sisters in the back seat! Good thing they grew up to play pacifist Orange Crush!

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        I just wanted to get right out there with a clean story.

    • denmaniacs4

      Nothing untoward came to my mind…that I’m a ware of. That’s the Canadian way. Up here, we adore beavers…

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Yer good people, right up there with Castor canadensis.

      • Charli Mills

        Yes! I’m always happy to greet a fellow beaver adorer, Bill.

    • Charli Mills

      Ha! In my awe and wonder at a natural sighting, slang did not occur to me. I see where we can live up to Freud’s expectations of humans with this prompt. In my defense — I had no idea about slag, lol. Beaver Slaps on Porn-polluted Waters might be a titillating collection! ????

  2. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Castor canadensis, the North American beaver, is intertwined with the history of European colonizers on this continent. The export of beaver pelts back to the motherland funded early explorations and settlements, including the Plimoth Plantation. Trapping and hunting beaver for their furs changed the economy of the indigenous people who were employed in this unsustainable industry. Before the famous goldrushes, beaver pelts promised reward for those who ventured west, and the fabled mountain men who trapped them to the brink of extinction.
    But beavers rebounded. Signs of their industry are everywhere in New England. Wise and wary, they continue.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      One Day On the Lake

      The first tail slap seemed a formality. We were a ways from the lodge and I was not a direct threat. Then I paddled my kayak towards the lodge, sat silently beside it listening to kits mewing within. Too close. The second tail slap was a full body slam, the beaver coming alongside me, smacking the water hard with her tail. Now the mewing ceased!
      A motorized boat came, and the beaver disappeared after another tail slap. When that boat left, I again heard a beaver voice, this time soft clucking sounds, perhaps an instructive story regarding life’s dangers.

      • Charli Mills

        Fierce protectors, nurturing parents — beavers are good people. When we slow down to observe and listen, we learn so much. Fast boats miss much.

    • Charli Mills

      Wiser, may we all rebound from unsustainable ventures. Just spend the day at the People’s Garden on tribal lands and sustainability abounds.

  3. TanGental

    Sorry…
    Beaver Slap
    Little Tittweaking’s Police Constables, Belle Ende and Dick Edd felt fully prepared for their shift. As part of extending the force’s inclusivity training, both had just returned from a course on counter-euphemism. It wasn’t unusual to be called out to the Beaver Slap, the town’s novelty emporia that stocked all accessories for the discerning dominatrix. The report suggested the incident involved a theft by some American visitors who’d been snatching packed fannies. After intensive questioning, the police issued a warning when it became clear the packed fannies were their own and the visitors were only intent on taking liberties.

    • Sue Carmichael Spitulnik

      You have me laughing…
      On Rt. 66 in Missouri there is a novelty strip mall called Uranus and the main store is the Fudge Factory. The salesgirls are dressed in schoolgirl uniforms of white bouses and short kilt plaid skirts. They cheerfully say,”Thank you for letting me pack your fudge today.” Watching the shoppers was priceless.

      • Charli Mills

        ???? I wonder if that shop was founded by a Tittweakian?

    • Charli Mills

      Not sorry at all, lol! You managed to get the ever-confusing Am./Br. fanny involved!

  4. Norah

    Two weeks in Vermont with Dede sounds like writer heaven. We don’t have beavers in Australia, so anything I know is second hand. I’d never heard of a beaver slap and wonder at its sound. Wildlife spotting in Vermont is amazing – Mink and Robin and Beaver: we have none of them here.
    Welcome home! I’m pleased everyone survived.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xn38KJ8Gztk
      There are so many youtube features of beavers. Here’s one, but a long one.
      I grew up with these wonderful animals and nowadays there are more than ever around. I think there might be more beavers than people in my town and they do much to keep our environment healthy and well watered.
      Ha! When hub and I were in NZ we ended up at a zoo and saw a poor beaver there as an exotic animal.
      Yep, everyone survived their VT adventures.

      • Charli Mills

        Some even thrived!

      • Norah

        It is a long video, but I know I’ll enjoy it. What an enticing beginning. Poor beaver in a zoo. 🙁
        I’m pleased you all survived. ????????

  5. lcrwpres

    I enjoyed sharing your trip on Facebook, and I’m happy all went well. What a send-off, two beaver slaps. I’m jealous. We have a resident woodchuck in our fenced back yard and I caled it a beaver yesterday after reading your post to Bob. It does remind me of a mink when it runs across the yard. My father and his friend ran trap lines wehn I was in highschool so I learned all about furs back then.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      We ran traplines way back when I was a kid, which is one way to learn about an animal. It may seem like a horrible thing to people, but it was a way of life once upon a time. There is much less trapping done now as fur has gone out of fashion. It makes me happy to know that Carrot Ranch has an active beaver colony within its borders and that they are Shorty’s chief engineers.

      • Charli Mills

        The best engineers, ever!

    • Charli Mills

      So many interactions in the lake ‘hood! I’d enjoy watching a yard woodchuck gamboling about!

  6. Jules

    Charli,

    It thought there were bevers in my creek (might still be – though I’m not sure if I ever saw them – I know there are water snakes, big and litttle)… I think I saw were gophers and mink or otters… Anyway glad you got refreshed. We just sorta emptied our wallet for some house issues, a tree fell across the creek and we had to pay to get it out. And a new heat pump. May June be a more relaxing month!

    I played here with (a small note on my post):
    Brouhaha Brew?

    Beaver Slap Brew was the code word for Uncle Jeds ‘white lightning’ in brown bottles sold under the counter at the local bait shop. Truth be told, the label of the critter’s tale slapping the water was really all the warning you would ever need if you were smart. It was the drink of the old men with iron stomachs. Well the folks who ate a whole stick of butter first anyway – but they didn’t always tell everyone that trick. Old Sam was the only one allowed to sell it – and that was to family and friends.

    © JP/dh

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, that white lightning certainly sounds worthy of a Beaver Slap label to warn off young fools! You must have a lot of wildlife in your back yard. May June be more peaceful and gentler on your wallet.

      • Jules

        I don’t have a lake, but I’ve got a access to a ‘creek’ at the end of my place. Some older knumbnut in shorts and sandels is half standing in the mud on the north side (right now) trying to catch a fish. At least he can read the ‘No Tresspassing’ signs I put up in my yard. Since the tree that fell knocked some limbs on the northside it isn’t as easy to get to that particular spot opposite my yard.

        There’s a space on the north side before the other folks (on the other side) yards begin or end. Deer, coyote, fox… wild turkey (not in a bottle).

        Looks like him and his buds might have caugh their limit and are heading home…??? They’re drinking something… I hope they clean up after themselves.

      • Charli Mills

        Hope they are not drinking Beaver Slap!

      • Jules

        While cleaning out the gully that runs into the creek I did find a bear can… I usually warn young folk about the snakes, snapping turtles, muskrats, gohphers and other critters, but I let the ‘Big Boys’ alone. 😀

      • Charli Mills

        Oh, beer cans.

      • Jules

        Phat fingered… yep beer – found another flat one today!

      • Jules

        ~Thanks

  7. poetisatinta

    Glad you enjoyed your trip – thanks for the prompt ????

    • Charli Mills

      It was a refreshing trip! Enjoy playing with the prompt!

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