July 18: 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.

July 18, 2023

Have you ever had a Nik-L-Nip? It’s a type of candy made to look like tiny soda bottles, made of wax, and filled with flavored syrup. You bite off the top, drink the liquid, and chew the bottles like gum. They are vintage kid candy and found in specialty shops, often sold based on pure nostalgia.

My grand-niece, A-bean, says they are “Fun, colorful creative and you can warm up the wax and shape it differently.” She’s not only creative, but A-bean is also a rock whisperer.

Family is trekking to Michigan in waves of summer visits and I couldn’t be happier. The Keweenaw Peninsula is not on any road to anywhere. It’s remote. A deliberate commitment to travel. One I appreciate because it’s a joy to share the beauty and wonder that is this Lake Superior place with its rich rocks and water.

When A-bean and her brother Spartan arrived she asked, “Why do you have so many rocks?”

She hadn’t even seen a fraction of them. Before long we were scouring rooms, gardens, and my special boxed collections. I taught her how to use geometric shapes to build grids, placing stones at various intersections. A-bean picked up the art of sensing a rock’s energy in the palm of her hand and she built a grid from ones that gave her an electric impulse. Mind you, it can take years for rock tenders to develop such skills. Before long she was listening to stones.

As you can imagine, this nine-year-old was thrilled to sleep in the Unicorn Room. I dare say, the Unicorn Room was thrilled to have her as a guest. She’s an enchanting one, my grand-niece. When not talking to my rocks, she hangs out in the raspberry patch.

Of course, we had to visit my favorite beach at McLain’s. Lake Superior had responded to a cold front with massive waves and no one was on the beach. The storm surge was so forceful, waves ate away at the beach, leaving few rocks to hunt. A-bean got into the edge water with me, unafraid. I kept close to her in case she stumbled when a wave hit. Todd kept watch over us all as Mause dug in the sand, Spartan threw rocks, and my SIL and her husband took photos. It was a magnificent day to introduce family to the Lake.

Earlier, when my niece and her husband, and their son visited, the lake was calm and we swam at Eagle Harbor. I wonder how it will be next week? Lady Lake is predictably unpredictable.

You might think we’d be setting up a prompt for vintage candy or rocks, but A-bean had another idea. She picked the photo prompt and theme. So, yup. Rubber ducks. If you want to add rocks or childhood sweets, feel free to go where creativity is flowing for you. And, not feeling creative? Writers, that’s when we push through and surprise ourselves!

Time to dash off to the farm for deliveries and a tour. We might be off the beaten path in the Keweenaw, but you can’t beat the experience.

July 18, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a rubber duck. Where is this duck — somewhere typical like a tub or somewhere surprising like a roller derby. Who is with the duck? What is happening? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by July 24, 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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  1. Colleen M. Chesebro

    Rubber ducky you’re the one… ????

    • Charli Mills

      “…You make bathtime lots of fun…” ????

  2. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    “Kid, ya look like the cat whut swallowed the canary.”
    “Canary, Pal? A little yellow bird?”
    “Yeah, like thet. What’s with ya?”
    “Jist thinkin on how much I’m likin this prompt.”
    “It’s a ducky prompt.”
    “Donkey? Thet is convenient, whut with yer latest acquisition.”
    “Not donkey. More of a quackisition.”
    “Not following ya, Kid.”
    “We have ta write bout rubber duckies. An I’m thinkin how our followers (hey Sue) kin fin’ly be told how ornery, grumpy ol Pal a’tchally has a rubber ducky.”
    “Now, Kid…”
    “Yep, even takes it on backcountry roundups.”
    “Quiet, Kid.”
    “Quacks me up, Pal!”

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      “Whut, Kid? Ya wanna s’clusive with me an my ducky?”
      “No. Well, mebbe. But was jist thinkin, after readin Colleen’s comment… are we Ernie an Bert?”
      “Them Sesame Street characters?”
      “Yep. But, like, Hands at Carrot Ranch.”
      “No! Jeez! They ain’t us, an we ain’t them!”
      “Yer right, Pal. You’d be Oscar the Grouch.”
      “Would not! Anyways, was Ernie thet had the ducky.”
      “Ha! So yer admittin that you have a ducky an that yer the more ornery one, ie, yer Bert ta my Ernie.”
      “Ain’t nuthin bout this ranch is like Sesame Street.”
      “Big Bird, Rubber Ducky…”
      “Okay, Kid. Let’s compare an contrast.”
      “Okay. I’m fun, yer not.”
      “Not true. Yer bout as fun as a mosquito bite on a saddle sore. An I meant ta compare Sesame Street ta Carrot Ranch.”
      “Oh. Well, they’re both great places. Safe. Diverse. Kin learn a lot in both places.”
      “Yep. Folks kin be themselves. They’re both virtual places. With fictional characters.”
      “An, though Sesame Street’s a urban setting, they also got a ornery ol grouch. An they got a big yeller bird, an we got a little yellow ducky.”
      “No we don’t.”
      “Empty yer saddle bags, Pal.”

      • Charli Mills

        Kid is always making good leaps — from ducky to Big Bird. But now I’m seeing Pal as a muppet!

  3. a-zend-life

    Oh Charlie…to adventure with you would be so grand! And your grandniece is the perfect candidate for being a rock whisperer! Her soul is still pure and open to accept the things that adults have long closed themselves off to…I pick a stone every day from my collection that reaches out to me and I carry with me soaking in it’s energy. They are a powerful force from the earth! I really enjoyed reading about your time with your family!

    • Charli Mills

      The best adventures begin with rocks! Collectively, they are a beautiful earth medicine and individually they carry unique energies just as humans do. My grand-niece has that openness you describe. I think those of us drawn to write creatively found a way to not shut down the imaginal.

      • a-zend-life

        I have never thought of that before. I have a whole collection of them in a jewelry organizer hanging on my closet door. I chose one instinctively every day and carry it around with me. I cleanse them and charge them by the moon cycles too. The earth has so much energy potential and I try to live by that. Now that you brought up the idea of writers having that open space still, I am going to have to pay attention to the moon when I feel the most creative. It has made me curious now to see what kind of work I put out based on the moon. I’m still working on consistency. ????

  4. pedometergeek

    Had Nik-l-Nip when I was a child. I liked the syrup, but as a gum, it wasn’t that great, Charlie. As for the prompt, it is just ducky. ~Nan

    • Charli Mills

      As gum, I remember them being awful, Nan! Enjoy the ducky prompt!

  5. Mr. Ohh's Sideways View

    try this one

    A hush fell over the room. The keynote speaker floated to the podium. The light was bright yellow and pudgy, but this time there was no orange smile.
    “Are you tired of taking a bath?” his sound so loud it echoed off the tile. “Our souls are being drained in a whirlpool of despair, leaving only a soapy film of blackness which never washes off. Yet we say nothing. Most don’t even let out a simple squeak unless squeezed and mangled.”
    “We could just sit, with our heads wrapped in a towel, or we could bounce back, like rubber!!”????????????

    • Charli Mills

      Ha! That’s a great perspective from the Rubber Duck Nation!

  6. Jules


    I didn’t know that candy had a name. But I do remember them!
    I’m not sure if Harry’ll find a rubber duck at the Salloon but I did write this;

    Rubber Duckie’s Playing Hide and Seek

    How much fun would it be for a child to find and slumber with one of the rubber ducks I plan to take on my next cruise. I read about distributing duckies with little tags that say; “You Lucky Duck, You found me!! Keep me or hide me.”

    I found three ducks (so far) I plan to give away. Two different ‘Disney’ Princesses and one Superman duck from the local discount kiddo store. I’ll have to check back and see if they’ve got some different ones. Quakers! Maybe I’ll find more at the charity shop, or at yard sales.

    © JP/dh

    PS… I’d like to learn more about reading rocks too! 🙂
    Glad you are enjoying your family. We’ll be seeing more of the twins soon.
    Them little critters are walking now!!

    • Charli Mills

      How exciting to go on a research trip, Anne, and meet a couple of herons. Kingfishers are one of my favorite birds and it is a joy to get to watch them hunt on the water or resting in a tree. Excellent work to rework something you’ve written into your novel.

      • Anne Goodwin

        They are gorgeous birds but we don’t get to see them so much in the UK. I’ve had better sightings abroad.

  7. pensitivity101

    True story from me Charli. Hope all is well with you and everyone at Carrot Ranch. It’s been a while.

  8. Norah

    What a lovely story of a family visit. A-Bean sounds like the perfect guest, someone who shares an affinity with the host. I like that she chose the prompt. I hope she enjoys the stories it inspires.

  9. Sue Spitulnik

    Your visitors sound like so much fun. Your home is what we call a destination house or as the quilters would say, a destination store. We’ll drive the distance to get there. I will get to visit one day.
    My daughter drives a jeep and belongs to the Amrican Jeep Club. They leave rubber ducks of all sorts and prices on each others jeeps as a hello I like your decorating job, or an invitation to a jeep lub. I didn’t use it in my story, but hought it worth sahring.
    Happy summer. I’ll look at rocks differently now.

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