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August 1: Story Challenge in 99-words

In the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, strident calls remind me that it’s the immature season — big ugly birds are fledging. A pair of merlins acquired a corvid nest one house down from mine and they’ve raised a squawky bunch.

Barely a week ago, the youngest merlins left the nest to perch on neighboring rooftops. The din brought me outside to witness falcon surround-sound fledging. Todd joined me, wielding a spotting scope for long-range shooting. I held my binoculars and breath, feeling awed at the moment. It was like watching a baby’s first steps.

Immature merlins have scraggly brown feathers so puffy, they look bigger than their parents. They hunch up, uncertain of their ability to fly. They lift their wings into imitations of caped vampires. And sometimes, they slide off a gable.

By the time the third wave of kin arrived, the merlin family encompassed the entire Roberts Street neighborhood.

The week caught its own moments with immature birds, while out kayaking. First, we encountered a winding slough off the Portage Canal where red-winged blackbirds had just fledged. It was a rare moment to see juveniles and females flying and perching along the wooded edge. Had we kayaked here any other day, we would have missed the fledging.

And at another lake on another day — we rose early, grabbed coffee and breakfast burritos at Krupps, and hit the water at Twin Lakes. By the time we meandered a waterway between Lake Gerald and Lake Roland, a baby eagle took flight, chasing down a parent. We arrived at the precise moment the eagle clumsily flew from one side of the lake to the other.

Yet, there are some juvenile birds I’ve never seen — swallows, road runners, cedar waxwings. We did see adult male cedar waxwings though and they behaved nobly except for when one landed on a branch too thin and he bobbed in a silly way. We saw Anne Goodwin’s kingfisher, but no princes. We saw numerous sandhill cranes, but no teens. One of our best sightings occurred along Misery Creek — the opposite of immature — an old age of a wood turtle.

Wherever you are, take time to notice who takes to the air where you live. Consider how the seasons change the bird-scape. Maybe the immature can teach us writers something about transformation.

Immatures make a lot of noise and fuss. Its an image easily transposed to characters under development. What does it mean to be immature? What do immature people look like, act like, and speak? It can be a character trait that informs or colors a story. Go ahead. Play, and have fun this challenge!

August 1, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about something or someone immature. Is it a wine not yet ready to uncork or an adult not ready to adult? You can follow the flight of immature fledglings or come up with something unexpected. Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by August 7, 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.


  1. I don’t know why this line made me laugh: “Is it a wine not yet ready to uncork or an adult not ready to adult?” Perhaps both in one flash? 😉

  2. Jules says:


    The prompt turned out to be very good for Harry;

    “Unfledged” Harry

    Harry watched as the white fence he was painting became sun-kissed by the progressing day. He probably looked pretty silly in a borrowed Hawaiian shirt taking time away from a wise feather pen that provided its own ink, mirrors that projected more than just reflections and some new friends who had a menagerie of animals at their place that was called the Saddle up Saloon.

    He’d remembered that he had come from some sort of formal dance where he had to wear a tux. But he wanted to escape dancing with the immature debutantes. Would he ever grow up?

    The other question Harry also thought of was, would he ever get home. In the Saloon he was writing a story about a Victorian woman in a photo he’d found in a box where the feather Pen had been tape to the back. The thought had briefly occurred to him that maybe he was being written. But that couldn’t be – he was real wasn’t he?

    Harry carefully set the paintbrush down on the paint can and walked back to the Poetree. He sat on the ground and leaned his back comfortably on the bark. Time for a nap.

    The last thing Harry thought of was either immature, cautious or perhaps frightening; If he slept would it be the sleep of Rip Van Winkle? Would twenty minutes end up being twenty years? Would his immature peach fuzz face sprout full fledged whiskers? Would he be more of a man when he woke up?

    The sun kissed his face through the leaves of the poetry and he could no longer keep his eyes open. He barely remembered that Curly, no longer an immature piglet, snuggled up to him. For some odd reason that connection made him feel comfortably safe.

    © JP/dh

    Note: What is the meaning of the word unfledged?; 1. : not feathered : not ready for flight. 2. : not fully developed : immature. an unfledged writer.

    • Charli Mills says:

      With pondering like Harry’s, he’ll soon have mature wings, Jules. It is the dreamers dream when one wonders who is doing the dreaming. Makes me wonder if I characters go off into the wilds of the imaginal and write their own stories while we dither about in our daily lives. Perhaps, until we writers have fledged.

      • Jules says:

        I think there is a book about that… I had started reading – Sort of what happens to the charactors of books once the library closes for the night…

        Ah…the wilds of Carrot Ranch 😉 I added to Kid and Pal’s magic feathers… You can add it to the ’round up if you can. 😀

        Glad that Kid and Pal’s writer finally made it home too. 🙂 Oh… check the mail, Harry sent Kid, Pal and Curly a postcard… really! 😀

      • Charli Mills says:

        Jules, funny story about the mail this week on Roberts Street — Todd’s morning routine involves getting the contents of our mailbox, often waiting outside with a cup of coffee. He has a pile on the dining room table which I go through to make sure we are on top of VA appointments, and he leaves mine on my desk. Unless he deems it important. Then he interrupts the calm that is the Unicorn Room for “special delivery.” Harry’s postcard arrived, addressed to “Kid, Pal, and Curly.” He doesn’t really know about the Ranch Yarns or Saddle Up Saloon, but he knows Carrot Ranch. So, he bursts into the Unicorn Room to announce “we” got a card. He says, “It’s for you and D. and someone thinks I’m Curly.” I about lost it, laughing! Tell Harry, thanks for the missive!

    • “Kid, our writer’s back! Git over ta the Saloon afore she checks on it. There’s been a penguin hangin out there.”
      “Thet penguin, name a Hairy, took up with Curly an Curly convinced Hairy ta roll in the mud.”
      “So? Curly’s all growed up now, not my responsibility. Anyways, who minds a little mud?”
      “Curly got this Hairy fella inta a LOT of mud. Then all them quills thet was around ended up stickin ta him. Looks like a fledgling mudhen. Tellin ya, this won’t fly with our writer.”
      “Alright, Pal, I’ll take em both fer a swim.”

      *So Kid went ta the Saddle Up Saloon ta see whut was goin on. Curly an this Hairy penguin (turns out a fella named Harry who had showed up in a tuxedo) were covered in mud, jist wallowin unnerneath the Poet Tree. Kid incouraged em both ta swim in the crick til they come clean.
      An Harry did come clean. Admitted he was homesick, despite havin a high time ennertainin folks at the Saddle Up. But how ta git home from here? Them quills is pin feathers, don’t work fer flight, till Kid changed the i to a e.*

      *Pen feathers kin take ya anywhere, anytime. An by now ya know ol Harry kin really fly with quill power. Yep, Harry was now ready ta take off. Had arrived in a cummerbund an tails then molted an transformed. Yep Harry was ready fer flight, was feelin strong an wise after time unner the Poet Tree at the Saddle Up.
      An mebbe it was all a dream. No matter if it was. But fictional characters matter, Harry reminded us all a thet.
      So thank ya Harry.*
      “Pal! A feather!”
      “Safe journey, Harry, ta thet magical place ya call home.”

      • Jules says:

        *Home? oooh… Thet’s a gooden thing. Stick ’round though as there’s gotta be a gem of a conclustion and a ‘Thank Y’all’ maybe in on a Postal Card to add to that magiked box o’ odd stuff that Kid and Pal had behind the counter…*

        When Operknockety Tunes… take a listen 😀 …I couldn’t wait…

        Harry’s Home…

        “Young Man, wake up,” said the Janitor… I think you fell down the stairs, enden’ up in my mop closet.`

        Harry was all twisted in his tux. The dance must be over. He felt a bit foolish, flushed a tad immature. But otherwise no broken bones. He dusted himself off and figured it was best to just call a cab and go home.

        Odd scenes traveled with him all the way home. He’d have to clean out the pockets of the tux before returning it. He found pin feathers and a small bottle of sand on a leather string.

        Harry was tired, he couldn’t sleep. On his desk was a fountain pen gifted to him by a favorite Aunt. There were some postcards from the last time he visited the museum.

        Harry sat down and started writing; “Dear Kid, Pal, and Curly, Had a wonderful time. Maybe we’ll meet again. I really enjoyed your hospitality. And even enjoyed rolling in the mud by the Poetree. Being grown up and responsible allows us to make choices to be immature sometimes. I made it home…” Harry put a stamp on the card and set it on the open window sill.

        © JP/dh

        (Go where the prompt leads! Submit by August 7, 2023. A day late and a dollar short – Maybe Chari’ll include it?… Most of all though – thet Post Card hasta arrive at the Saddle Up!)

  3. Norah says:

    Immature – sounds right up my alley! 😅
    I love birdwatching, and loved reading about your watching.

  4. Anne Goodwin says:

    Thanks for the mention, Charli, you spotted way more birds than I ever do. Glad you both had such a great time.

    • Charli Mills says:

      I thought of you immediately, thinking, there’s Anne’s kingfisher! They are birds worth seeking out and giving to characters. It was fun, thanks!

  5. Being mindful is the key to evolving and you said it beautifully, Charli.

    My take on immaturity is:

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