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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